United Airlines debuted its first passenger service utilizing a Boeing 737 MAX 9 with UA flight 686 between Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) June 7. 

Chicago-based United is the 737-9’s first North American carrier.

United is expecting to have 10 737-9s by year-end, which will make up nearly half of the carrier’s 24 planned additions to its mainline fleet for 2018. Six 737-9s have been delivered to-date, a United spokesperson told ATW.

Two of the 737-9s entered service June 7, both flying the IAH-MCO route, as well as routes between Houston and Austin, Texas; and Houston and Anchorage, Alaska, a route United previously had to fly with larger jets.

Additional 737-9 service between Houston and Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tampa will begin by the end of June.

United said its new 737-9s are equipped with Viasat Wi-Fi, offering internet connections from gate-to-gate. Over 70 of United’s aircraft, including at least 58 of its incoming 737 MAX fleet, will be configured for Viasat Wi-Fi over the next three years, the carrier said. Subtracting the -9s delivered to date, United has an additional 156 737 MAX family aircraft on order.

United is configuring its 737-9s with 179 seats, including 20 in first-class and 48 in economy plus. Like the carrier’s 787s, the 737 MAXs feature a special livery the airline said is intended to emphasize its eco-friendliness.

Mark Nensel mark.nnensel@informa.com