Southwest Airlines Places Huge Boeing 737 MAX Order

Southwest Airlines Places Huge Boeing 737 MAX Order

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Southwest Airlines has just placed a huge Boeing 737 MAX order. This has been rumored for quite a while, but is now official.

Southwest’s big Boeing 737 MAX 7 order

Southwest Airlines has just placed an order for up to 255 additional Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. With this announcement:

  • Southwest Airlines has placed a firm order for an additional 100 Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft, the first 30 of which are scheduled to be delivered in 2022
  • Southwest Airlines has options for an additional 155 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, split between the 737 MAX 7 and 737 MAX 8, to be delivered between 2022 through 2029
  • Southwest Airlines has converted 70 existing Boeing 737 MAX 8 orders into 737 MAX 7 orders

For some context on Southwest Airlines’ fleet:

  • Southwest Airlines operates the world’s largest Boeing 737 fleet, with over 730 of the planes in its fleet
  • Southwest Airlines currently has ~475 Boeing 737-700s, 207 Boeing 737-800s, and 55 Boeing 737 MAX 8s
  • The Boeing 737 MAX 7 seats 150 people, while the Boeing 737 MAX 8 seats 175 people

With this latest order update, Southwest Airlines’ 737 MAX orders now look as follows:

  • Southwest Airlines now has firm orders for 349 Boeing 737 MAXs, including 200 737 MAX 7s and 149 737 MAX8s
  • On top of that, Southwest Airlines has options for a further 270 Boeing 737 MAXs, split between 737 MAX 7s and 737 MAX 8s

As you can see, prior to this announcement, Southwest had made plans to more than replace its existing 737-800 fleet (with 737 MAX 8s), while it hadn’t made sufficient plans to replace its existing 737-700 fleet. This order has addressed that, both in terms of new aircraft orders, and also in terms of changes to existing orders.

Southwest is ordering up to an additional 255 Boeing 737 MAXs

Is this 737 MAX order surprising at all?

We knew that Southwest Airlines was allegedly considering both the Airbus A220 and Boeing 737 MAX 7 for replacing its 737-700s. While it was theoretically possible that Southwest could have selected the A220, I don’t find this order surprising at all:

  • With the Boeing 737 MAX having just reentered service, and Boeing desperate to sell planes, I’m sure Southwest is getting an incredible deal
  • There’s something to be said for Southwest’s common fleet type, in terms of crew training, maintenance, and more; then again, the other side of that coin is that if there’s something wrong with that plane, you’re in big trouble

I think this is absolutely what most of us were expecting, given Southwest’s desire for consistency and overall history with Boeing. As a passenger I do find this to be disappointing, given that the A220 is a more pleasant ride as a passenger than the 737 MAX. On the plus side, at least Southwest’s 737 MAXs aren’t as uncomfortable as those at some other airlines.

Southwest Airlines won’t be ordering any Airbus A220s

Bottom line

Southwest Airlines has just placed a huge order for the Boeing 737 MAX, including 100 firm orders and 155 options. The airline is also converting some existing 737 MAX 8 orders into 737 MAX 7 orders, reflecting that the airline needs to replace its smaller 737s.

While we knew that Southwest was trying to decide between the Airbus A220 and Boeing 737 MAX, I don’t think anyone is surprised to learn that the airline ended up selecting Boeing.

What do you make of Southwest Airlines’ latest aircraft order?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Marlon

    I don't really think the MAX 8s are "replacing" the 738s because WN's 738s aren't that old.

  2. Jay

    Not defending or criticizing anyone, but the lavs on the Max are Boeing's doing. They (as well as Airbus) are eliminating customization anywhere they can.
    As for the 7 "beating out" the 220... there was a better chance of the sun rising in the west than WN ordering anything that doesn't start with a 7.

  3. Alan123

    The Airbus order was never going to happen. Let's just hope Southwest MAX's are nicer than AA's, with their cramped seats and miniscule micro-closet restrooms. I've only ever flown the MAX on AC and I was quite impressed.

  4. Juan

    Given that this is likely the last 737 variant, an A220 would have helped Southwest for a post-737 future. However, that future is still at least 10-15 years away, maybe more, so it doesn't make sense to shift their fleet now.

    I also would have loved the A220 on Southwest. I'm sure they would have done a great job. But their economy cabin still offers decent legroom, better than the Big 3's narrowbodies, so it...

    Given that this is likely the last 737 variant, an A220 would have helped Southwest for a post-737 future. However, that future is still at least 10-15 years away, maybe more, so it doesn't make sense to shift their fleet now.

    I also would have loved the A220 on Southwest. I'm sure they would have done a great job. But their economy cabin still offers decent legroom, better than the Big 3's narrowbodies, so it won't be as cramped in these new Max7 planes. May offer slightly more legroom to keep it at 150 or lower just so they don't have to have a 4th flight attendant.

  5. stogieguy7

    For WN, this is a logical move. A no brainer. For one thing, I'm sure that they got a heck of a great deal. So, it's a fresh fleet on the cheap. And, the common fleet type does save them a lot of money on maintenance, pilot training/certifications, etc.

    As to what Ben said about the comfort of WN's interior configuration on these jets: that was exactly right. I actually flew on a WN...

    For WN, this is a logical move. A no brainer. For one thing, I'm sure that they got a heck of a great deal. So, it's a fresh fleet on the cheap. And, the common fleet type does save them a lot of money on maintenance, pilot training/certifications, etc.

    As to what Ben said about the comfort of WN's interior configuration on these jets: that was exactly right. I actually flew on a WN MAX8 just before the type were grounded and it was relatively comfortable. WN has a humane seat pitch, decently padded/upholstered seats, and a sufficient seat width as economy seats go. This is no AA Oasis torture chamber.

  6. AW

    "the A220 is a more pleasant ride as a passenger than the 737 MAX."

    You know that doesn't really mean anything, right? The comfort is entirely dependent on the individual airline and their seating plan.

    1. Ben

      @ AW -- Yes and no. While seat pitch, cabin finishes, entertainment, etc., come down to the individual airline, a 2-3 configuration is almost unarguably better than a 3-3 configuration, and then on top of that the seats are able to be wider on the A220 than the 737.

  7. Thomas J Boyer

    Good thing because SW and American's staunch opposition are the reason Boeing did the Max instead of staying with its previous plans to do a clean-sheet narrowbody. Boeing would be in so much better shape today competing against Airbus if it had a new airframe instead of working off a 60-year-old fuselage design. You gotta listen to your customers but....

    Secondly, the 220 is wildly successful and production capacity is limited, so probably the 220...

    Good thing because SW and American's staunch opposition are the reason Boeing did the Max instead of staying with its previous plans to do a clean-sheet narrowbody. Boeing would be in so much better shape today competing against Airbus if it had a new airframe instead of working off a 60-year-old fuselage design. You gotta listen to your customers but....

    Secondly, the 220 is wildly successful and production capacity is limited, so probably the 220 wasn't ever really in the cards for Southwest. They need these planes on a schedule and they can't wait in line for them.

  8. Jan

    Would it be surprising if other airlines crams 3-3 layout on A220? DL has some fairly wide seats for coach in theirs, I’m sure others are thinking about Oasis-ing it

  9. Evan

    It will be interesting to see how "comfortable" the A220 will remain as other airlines start flying it. I know DL decked out their A220s, but I wonder how one would feel in an "Oasis" A220 flown by American.

    I'm not knocking the A220, but airlines aren't in it for passenger comfort. I could see reduced legroom in exchange for adding a row or two. I think a better gauge of A220 comfort will be when it's flown by a variety of airlines in a variety of configurations.

  10. Steve_CC

    Rode on a max before they grounding on Southwest, it was amazing, passengers were in awe stepping onto the planes and seeing the massive overhead space the fancy lights and windows. Obviously its all differnt now but it was a great experience on SW maybe not AA but which i think you rode an "Oasis" plane but you need to review a SW max flight.

  11. Sharon

    This is absolutely no surprise.

    Ryanair and Southwest are wholehearted loyal to Boeing just as Spirit and Easyjet are Airbus

    I’m sure southwest got the best deal possible from Boeing

  12. Endre

    Users on Airliners(.)net report that Southwest pays around 40m per frame.

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Marlon

I don't really think the MAX 8s are "replacing" the 738s because WN's 738s aren't that old.

Jay

Not defending or criticizing anyone, but the lavs on the Max are Boeing's doing. They (as well as Airbus) are eliminating customization anywhere they can. As for the 7 "beating out" the 220... there was a better chance of the sun rising in the west than WN ordering anything that doesn't start with a 7.

Alan123

The Airbus order was never going to happen. Let's just hope Southwest MAX's are nicer than AA's, with their cramped seats and miniscule micro-closet restrooms. I've only ever flown the MAX on AC and I was quite impressed.

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