Jumping In With Both Feet: Southwest MAX Deliveries

By Spyros Georgilidakis | March 30, 2021

After Boeing announced the latest Southwest MAX order yesterday, the airline detailed the schedule for its deliveries, and some NG retirements.

With deliveries of 737-8 aircraft continuing this year, Southwest yesterday announced the biggest MAX order since well before the grounding of the aircraft. Not only does it include new firm orders for 100 jets, it also included 155 options. And Boeing will hope that with these MAX orders, Southwest will maintain its reputation as an airline that likes to turn its options to deliveries. This is something that Southwest’s CEO Garry Kelly liked to remind audiences, in the past few months.

Jumping In With Both Feet: Southwest MAX Deliveries

Boeing’s announcement mentioned these overall numbers. They also mentioned that the airline converted some existing 737-8 orders into 737-7 orders. But there didn’t offer a lot of details. Southwest did so with its own announcement, adding the schedule for its MAX deliveries, for each year. So in all, Southwest converted 70 737-8 firm orders into 737-7 firm orders. The 155 new options can be for either of the two models. The timeline for both firm orders and options runs from 2022 to 2031.

Southwest’s MAX Deliveries By Year

In total, Southwest expects to get 19 deliveries of MAX aircraft in 2021 – all of them 737-8s. They will also get 9 more 737-8s from lessors in the same year. Interestingly, they don’t plan on getting any more aircraft from lessors, for now. This could change for some of their orders for future years, as they get closer. And given the age of Southwest’s 737-700 fleet, it makes sense that their MAX deliveries for the following years favour 737-7s.

So in 2022, 23, 24 and 25, Southwest’s MAX deliveries are for 737-7 models only. Of course this could change, since their options for these years are for 160 aircraft in total! Southwest were a launch customer for the 737-700. This means that these are the oldest aircraft in their fleet, many of them over 20 years of age. That’s even though the will retire a total of 17 737-700s this year. These are probably aircraft that are due for pricey C or D-checks.

Depending on demand, the airline can vary their options and retirements of old aircraft, as they go. The airline obviously knows what aircraft reach times for checks, or expiring leases. Southwest can time their MAX deliveries accordingly, taking into account whatever recovery levels aviation has reached each year. From 2026, MAX deliveries between Southwest’s 737-7 and 737-8 models will even out. In total, Southwest has firm orders for 200 737-7s, 149 737-8s and 270 options.

Jumping In With Both Feet: Southwest MAX Deliveries
Southwest’s MAX deliveries. Source: Southwest

Southwest’s Fleet Renewal Plans

Including deliveries of 16 leased jets in 2020-21, Southwest has a total of 635 MAX firm and optional orders. They also have 462 737-700 aircraft that they will replace before these MAX deliveries end. Southwest plan to have 729 jets at the end of this year. It will be interesting to see how this fleet size will develop in the coming years. In any case, Southwest looks set to remain the airline with the largest single-type fleet in the world!

Jumping In With Both Feet: Southwest MAX Deliveries

Southwest likes to promote an environmentally responsible stance. It points out the efficiency gains that its fleet renewal equates to: at least 14% less fuel per passenger. This was Boeing’s promised gains for the MAX. Actually some airlines reported gains of 15%, early on in the aircraft’s operational life. Translated over a fleet of 400+ aircraft, these gains are quite game-changing. Of course operators of Airbus A320neo fleets would make similar claims, too.

Southwest’s MAX deliveries this year stay the same, and so does their prediction for ‘immaterial’ aircraft capital spending. As already discussed, this is most likely because of compensation and other clauses, relating to the MAX delays. From 2022, the airline expects aircraft capital spending in the region of $700 million.

Will They? Southwest Consider The Airbus A220

Southwest’s MAX deliveries made the airline launch customer for the 737-8. They will soon be launch customers for the 737-7. The airline boasts being launch customer for generations even before the NG, including the 737-300 and 737-500 models. It will be interesting to see what they might do in the post-737 world..! But we may need to wait a while for that.

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