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Southwest Considers Boeing an “Operational Risk,” While Airbus Could Face Delays

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.

Bad news could be on the horizon for new aircraft deliveries, as Boeing and Airbus could have difficulties for different reasons.
Airlines are expressing more worries about the Boeing 737 MAX program, while Airbus may be facing delivery delays by the end of 2024.


The new concerns come as Southwest Airlines recently identified the 737 as a “Operational Risk” for the carrier’s future.


Airbus Anticipates Delays, Southwest Concerned over 737 MAX Program

The concerns from Southwest come from the carrier’s annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In the filing, the airline outlined some of their operational concerns, including conflict with labor unions, sufficient hiring, and the 737 MAX program.


“The Boeing MAX aircraft are crucial to the Company’s ability to operate and grow its business and fleet modernization initiatives,” the airline wrote in the investor filing. “In January 2024, Boeing announced plans to withdraw an exemption request with the FAA and incorporate an engineering solution as part of the [MAX-7] certification process. The FAA will ultimately determine the timing of the -7 certification and entry into service, and the Company therefore offers no assurances that current estimations and timelines are correct.”


With the airline operating a fleet consisting exclusively of Boeing 737 airframes, their concern is around deliveries and future availability. If Boeing cannot deliver on the smaller MAX-7 airframe, or if the MAX is grounded again, the airline says both passengers and operations could be significantly affected.


“Boeing no longer manufactures versions of the 737 other than the MAX family of aircraft,” the report reads. “If the MAX aircraft were to become unavailable for the Company’s flight operations, the Company’s operations would be materially adversely affected. Further, if the -7 certification is not completed in a timely manner, the Company’s growth and network plans could be restricted unless and until it could procure and operate other types of aircraft from Boeing or another manufacturer, seller, or lessor.”


The potential of adding Airbus aircraft – as fellow 737 operator Alaska Airlines may be considering – presents issues of its own. Southwest says adding another manufacturer to their fleet could “add complexity to the Company’s operations, present operational and compliance risks, and materially increase the Company’s costs.”


Even if they decided to look towards the Airbus A321neo, airframes may not be come into service for several years. Reuters reports the French aerospace company is telling airlines deliveries scheduled for late 2024 and 2025 could be pushed back due to supply chain issues.


Speaking to a conference, Reuters notes Air Lease executive chairman Steven Udar-Hazy said narrow-body aircraft are being delayed by as much as a year, and “That’s more the norm today.”


Airbus has not publicly commented on the potential for delivery delays.


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formeraa February 13, 2024

It is ironic that Southwest is complaining, since they basically demanded that Boeing create the MAX to have commanility with the older 727s.  Southwest did not want to pay for costly training, but wanted the fuel efficiency of a new plane.  By the way, I am not at all excusing Boeing for shoddy design and quality!  But Southwest did have a hand in all of this.  Boeing should have diesnged a totally new middle-size airplane.