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Southwest Adds 100 Firm Boeing 737 MAX Orders, Bringing Commitment to 600

Southwest Airlines currently owns the largest fleet of Boeing 737 MAX airframes among U.S. based carriers. During their second-quarter earnings announcement, airline CEO Gary Kelly said they were optimistic to start flying the 737 MAX by the end of 2020.

Despite its checkered history, Southwest Airlines is putting their future squarely on the wings of the Boeing 737 MAX. The Dallas-based airline added 100 firm orders for the next-generation narrowbody aircraft, bringing their total commitment with options to 600 airframes.

If you plan on flying Southwest Airlines sometime in the next 10 years, part of your trip will probably be aboard a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In a press release, Boeing announced the Dallas-based carrier added 100 firm orders for the troubled aircraft, bringing their total commitment to the narrowbody aircraft to over 600, including options.

Commitment to 737 MAX Solidifies Southwest’s “Appreciation” for the Aircraft

Prior to the two tragedies involving the Boeing 737 MAX, Southwest was the largest U.S. based operator of the aircraft, with 26 in their fleet. Even despite the 20-month grounding, leaders at Southwest say their 737-only fleet for the past 50 years works, and they look forward to continuing their relationship with the Chicago-based aerospace giant.

“Today’s commitment to the 737 MAX solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our Employees and Customers for years to come,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman and CEO, said in a press release. “We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world’s largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet.”

With the order, Southwest will have a total of 200 737 MAX-7 aircraft on order, along with 180 737 MAX-8. The airline will also carry 270 options for either aircraft. In addition to the order, the carrier will also add MAX airframes to their fleet via third-party leases. Neither Boeing nor Southwest provided an estimated order cost.

The new aircraft will replace Southwest’s aging Boeing 737-700 and -800 aircraft, seating between 140 and 180 passengers. The aircraft manufacturer says the new aircraft will cut emissions by 14 percent compared to older aircraft and reduce overall operating costs. Passengers will get the advantage of a quieter cabin, larger overhead bins and seats with adjustable headrests.

“We are deeply honored by Southwest’s continuing trust in Boeing and the 737,” Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in the release. “Their fleet decision today brings more stability for our biggest commercial program and will ensure that our entire 737 family will be building new airplanes for Southwest for years to come.”

Alongside the new orders, Boeing will also expand their digital solutions toolkit with Southwest, which includes Airplane Health Management, Maintenance Performance Toolbox and digital navigation charting tools. Boeing will also commit to system software upgrades and new “wireless communications-enabling equipment.”

New Order Comes as Public Starts to Distance 737 MAX from Tragedies

Southwest’s new order comes at a time when the public is starting to disassociate the troubled aircraft with two fatal crashes which claimed over 500 lives. A survey by Reuters and Ipsos released in December 2020 revealed just over half of flyers were “not likely” to fly aboard a Boeing 737 MAX, but only three percent said the aircraft type their airline used would be the decision factor on future plans.

FEasy April 8, 2021

I'm with the three percent who will avoid MAX operators. Too much fudging went into this plane's push to market. Maybe a couple of years without incidents will change my mind.