The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will allow United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare) to proceed with acquiring new aircraft despite an ongoing safety review of the airline's practices, according to administrator Mike Whitaker.

Speaking at a news conference on May 30, he said that while the agency would continue to monitor United's operations closely, it would permit the acquisition of new planes to replace older ones and support the airline's growth plans.

"We are permitting them to take deliveries of aircraft. Most of those aircraft have been one-on-one replacements for missing aircraft," Whitaker said. "They have provided us with their growth plan, and we're working with them on that growth plan going forward."

In an email to employees on May 16, United said the FAA was allowing it to restart certification processes of new aircraft after the regulator had reviewed and discussed the carrier's proactive safety steps, Reuters and Associated Press reported. However, the FAA at the time denied it had approved any expansion of United's routes or fleets. Whitaker acknowledged the confusion had been caused by the authority. "So there was some confusion; I think that was on our part," he admitted.

A United Airlines spokesperson said the airline had nothing to add to Whitaker's comments.

In March, the FAA heightened its oversight over United under its Certificate Holder Evaluation Program, resulting in the suspension of some of the carrier's FAA certifications and the delay of two international routes in April. Under the scheme, FAA personnel had to attend United's final inspections of new aircraft replacing older models.

This followed a series of incidents including a runway excursion at Houston Intercontinental, a B777-200ER losing a tyre during take-off from San Francisco, and a missing external panel discovered after landing. In response, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation (DOT) initiated an audit of the FAA's oversight to evaluate its actions.

According to the ch-aviation fleets module, United has on order 121 A321-200NX, fifty A321-200NY(XLR)s, forty-five A350-900s, 39 B737-8s, 141 B737-9s, 167 B737-10s, and 150 B787-9s.