MAX Grounding Prompts Air Lease Order Swap To Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Air Lease Corporation, the world’s ninth-largest airline leasing company, has decided to swap 15 Boeing 737 MAX orders for five Boeing 787 aircraft, as the firm tries to limit its exposure to the ongoing 737 MAX grounding disaster.

Boeing 737 MAX grounding 2020
Air Lease has decided to swap out the 737 MAX for the 787 Photo: Boeing

What are the details?

Air Lease currently has an outstanding order for 150 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. However, the grounding of the type has made them nervous enough to seriously consider the possibility that Boeing will be unable to deliver any new 737 MAX aircraft to them this year.

Speaking to shareholders earlier this week, Air Lease CEO John Plueger was quick to assure that the delayed return of the 737 MAX was on their part, not Boeing’s, as reported by Flight Global.

“Frankly, I hope our assumption is wrong, as we do look forward to delivery recommencement of the MAX as soon as possible,” insisted John Plueger “much of our new lease placement activity has been somewhat muted pending return to service of the MAX”.

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Until then, Air lease has decided to take advantage of a swap option presented by Boeing to change 15 of their 737 MAX orders to five Boeing 787-9 orders. Air Lease believes that 2020-2022 will see strong demand for the type and that their portfolio currently lacked enough of the Dreamliner variant.

“[The] wisest thing to do was to convert 15 of our MAX 8s and 9s into five additional 787-9s”

737 MAX 7,8,9 artwork
The entire MAX family has been grounded for several months now. Photo: Boeing

Who is Air Lease?

Air Lease is actually doing quite well out of the 737 MAX groundings and the A321neo delays. With narrowbody aircraft demand on the up, Air Lease is in an excellent position to increase rates and corner the market.

Air Lease currently has the following 297 aircraft in its portfolio plus 64 aircraft that they manage from other lessors:

Aircraft TypeFleetFleet %
Airbus A319-100
10.30%
Airbus A320-2003311.10%
Airbus A320-200neo93.00%
Airbus A321-2003411.60%
Airbus A321-200neo237.70%
Airbus A330-200144.70%
Airbus A330-30062.00%
Airbus A330-900neo51.70%
Airbus A350-90093.00%
Boeing 737-70041.40%
Boeing 737-8009632.30%
Boeing 737-8 MAX155.10%
Boeing 767-300ER10.30%
Boeing 777-200ER10.30%
Boeing 777-300ER248.10%
Boeing 787-9217.10%
Embraer E19010.30%

They also have 391 aircraft on order:

  • 27 Airbus A321 XLR’s
  • 23 Airbus A321neo’s
  • 75 Airbus A220’s (50 orders and 25 options)
  • Five Boeing 787-9s
  • 135 Boeing 737 MAX
  • Five Airbus A350-1000s

They actually make the majority of their sales before the aircraft are even built, with 97% of all aircraft leased to an airline prior to production. As you can see, narrowbody aircraft are incredibly popular for Air Lease (with the 737-800  representing 32.30% of their fleet) and having the 737 MAX knocked out of service could potentially be devastating.

737 MAX
Who will pay for all the costs for the MAX grounding? Air Lease says, Boeing. Photo: Boeing

But don’t feel too bad for Air Lease, as they are also getting away with charging fees for the grounded 737 MAX aircraft (they have 15 of the type leased out), as they claim they didn’t ground the aircraft but rather it was the manufacturer.

“To the extent that, any of those customers will demand concessions, please understand that we will look to Boeing to cover every dollar of any deficiency that might arise,”

What do you think about this news? Let us know in the comments.

3 comments
  1. Strange math here:
    Air Lease are getting one 787-9 for every three 737-8/9s; however, the list price of the 787-9 is 281.6 million dollars, and the list price of the 737-8/9 is 117.1/124.1 million dollars. This gives a factor of 2.3…not 3. I know this is based on list prices rather than actual prices, but it’s still strange. Unless Boeing gave a partial refund to Air Lease, of course.

    Also interesting to see that the swap was “presented by Boeing”…despite the fact that Boeing says it is confident that the MAX will be re-certified soon. Something doesn’t add up here.

    1. I think Boeing has been selling the max 60-70% under list price to get the big deals. Logically it would make sense at is a plane that is cheap to manufacture in big quantities.

      I don’t think that Airbus this advantage, due to the distributed production lines of the A32x all over the world.

      1. Well, there are currently more orders for NEOs (6638) than for MAXs (5008), despite the steep MAX discounting that you refer to…so there must be other factors at play. The NEO figures contain relatively large numbers of A321s (2699), for which Boeing don’t have a comparable product, so that would explain some of the difference. Apart from that, it seems that not everyone is attracted by a heavily discounted price alone…

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