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United Airlines bets big on travel with the largest plane order in its history

United Airlines just placed the biggest aircraft order in its history and expects to create 25,000 unionized jobs by 2026 in an effort to capitalize on the astonishing rebound in passenger travel.

Why it matters: This is one of those "go big or go home" moments for the airline industry, which was devastated by pandemic-related travel restrictions worldwide. Domestic leisure travel has bounced back, but business and international travel remain depressed, making United's plan a significant bet on future growth.


What they're saying: "Everything we see, every day, tells us that business and international travel will ultimately come back 100%," United CEO Scott Kirby told reporters late Monday.

  • "What you're seeing in the marketplace is that as people travel more for leisure, the resistance to traveling for business is rolling back quickly," added chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella. That will only accelerate in the fall after kids go back to school in much larger numbers, he said.
  • "Next summer, travel across the Atlantic is going to be an absolute record-breaker," Nocella predicted.

Details: United announced the purchase of 270 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft — its biggest ever, and the largest by any carrier in the past decade.

  • Combined with previous orders, United plans to take delivery of 500 new planes between now and 2026, replacing at least 200 smaller regional jets with larger aircraft.
  • The fleet overhaul means United will increase the total number of available seats across its domestic network by almost 30% per departure.

Flying should become more pleasurable as a result, with more premium seats available in first class and economy plus, giving passengers the opportunity to upgrade with more legroom, said chief customer officer Toby Enqvist.

  • The new planes will feature seat-back entertainment in every seat, significantly larger overhead bins, better lighting and faster WiFi.
  • Existing planes will be retrofitted to match the passenger experience of the new ones.
  • With a 1:1 ratio of overhead bins to passengers, United aims to address one of the biggest pain points of flying — anxiety about stowing carry-on bags.
  • More and larger bins will mean less crowding at the gate, fewer gate-checked bags and faster boarding, the company said.

What to watch: United plans to add 100 flights per day in Chicago, Denver and Houston, and expects domestic and international growth of 4% to 6% over the next few years.

To support that growth, the airline said it will add up to 25,000 jobs, mostly at its seven domestic hubs.

  • That includes as many as 5,000 new jobs in Newark, New Jersey, 4,000 in San Francisco and up to 3,000 each in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston and Denver. Los Angeles can expect up to 1,400 new jobs.

The bottom line: United is well-positioned for a fast recovery, Kirby said, because it struck a union deal early in the pandemic to keep pilots on staff and maintain their training requirements, unlike other airlines now facing pilot shortages.

What to watch at the Olympics today: Gymnastics, golf, 3x3 basketball, swimming

5 events to watch today...

  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on nbcolympics.com.
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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National parks "drowning in tourists"

Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

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Facebook's next chapter: Build the "metaverse"

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.

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CDC asks the vaccinated to help save the unvaccinated from themselves

The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.

The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.

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Least persuadable unvaccinated Americans are largely white and Republican

Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The most hardcore opponents of coronavirus vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican than the unvaccinated Americans who are still persuadable, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As the Delta variant triggers more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated, the Biden administration and even some high-profile GOP political and media figures are trying to figure out how to nudge the country's vaccination rate higher.

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Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Female Olympians in Tokyo are rejecting the uniforms that have long defined their sports, highlighting a double standard that exists how women dress in competition vs. men.

Driving the news: During their qualifying round Sunday, Germany's women's gymnastics team wore full-length unitards, eschewing the conventional leg-barring leotards worn by most female gymnasts.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many. pic.twitter.com/6ILdtSQF7o

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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