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United Airlines mulls a change to existing Boeing orders

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

(Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N) said on Tuesday it is considering whether to exchange aircraft orders it has placed with Boeing Co (BA.N) for larger 777-300ER jetliners, also made by the Chicago-based planemaker.

We "have the ability to negotiate the substitution of certain aircraft types for other aircraft types as part of our flexible fleet plan, and we are considering the Boeing 777-300ER in this context," United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said in an emailed statement.

McCarthy did not say which aircraft United was considering switching from, though The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that it is nearing a deal to swap at least 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners for the 777-300ERs. [http://tinyurl.com/oqylweg]

McCarthy said that United currently is not considering placing new orders for wide-body aircraft.

United owns no 777-300ER planes, though it operates 74 variants of that aircraft. While the airline uses these and Dreamliners alike to fly across the Pacific, smaller Dreamliners typically serve smaller markets.

Boeing is on track to build about 500 of its 777 aircraft before making the transition to its successor, the 777X model, in 2020. The planemaker still needs to secure more orders to fill its production gap, however.

"We don't discuss the conversations with our customers," a Boeing spokesman said in an emailed statement. "But we always work with airlines to meet their specific fleet needs."

(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin and Alwyn Scott in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby)