The Boeing 737 MAX has not had a great year in 2020. The aircraft has now been ungrounded, but deliveries have been delayed. Several airlines have canceled orders, with Boeing reportedly trying to sell orders to other airlines. As the situation improves, and the aircraft is recertified, we look at the current largest orders.
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Southwest Airlines – 281
Southwest Airlines was the first large customer for the 737 MAX, placing an order for 150 aircraft in December 2011. It remains in the top place still, with a total of 281 aircraft orders.
So far, 34 aircraft have been delivered, with the last five in December 2018. The airline hopes to start flying them again in the second quarter of 2021.
flydubai – 251
In second place is UAE airline flydubai. It has 251 aircraft ordered. It ordered 75 in December 2013, adding the rest in 2017. So far, it has taken delivery of 14 aircraft.
The airline has struggled with the grounding of the 737 MAX, only able to operate its 40 737-800 aircraft. Although it did consider Airbus aircraft at one point, it has not canceled its orders and has opted to stay with an all 737 fleet. In 2019, it leased additional aircraft from Smartwings to help cover the busy holiday season.
Lion Air – 251
Indonesia airline Lion Air has also ordered 251 737 MAX aircraft. It placed an initial order for 201 in February 2012 and another order for 50 in September 2017. And it too has taken delivery of 14. Unfortunately, though, it lost one in the crash in 2018 that contributed to the grounding of the 737 MAX.
Lion Air is reliant on the 737. Like Southwest and flydubai, this is the only narrowbody it operates. It has added A330 aircraft as well since 2019.
VietJet Air – 200
VietJet has 200 737 MAX aircraft on order but is yet to take delivery. It placed an order for 100 aircraft in May 2016 and ordered a further 100 in December 2018.
This is an incredible order for an airline with only 73 aircraft in its current fleet (all Airbus A320 and A321) and shows well its plans to hugely expand. For comparison, AirAsia (the largest low-cost airline in Asia) has a fleet of 97 aircraft, although it too has large orders in place (with Airbus)
International Airlines Group (IAG) – 200 (letter of intent)
Technically, IAG has not formalized an order for 737 MAX aircraft. But we include it here, as it has issued a letter of intent for 200 737 MAX aircraft. These would be delivered between 2023 and 2027, but there has been discussion that IAG wants to bring this forward to 2022. And despite the slowdown in 2020, IAG remains keen.
It is a good example of how the consolidation in Europe has helped airline’s orders. IAG can split the aircraft between British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL. Early indications were that the aircraft were intended for LEVEL and Vueling, but this is not certain.
United Airlines – 185
United has ordered 185 737 MAX aircraft (100 in July 2012, one more in 2015, 61 in December 2016, and 24 in December 2018). These orders are still in place, and so far, 14 aircraft have been delivered.
United will be the largest operator amongst the US legacy airlines. Delta Air Lines has not ordered the 737 MAX, and American Airlines has ordered 100 (and taken delivery of 24).
SpiceJet – 136
Indian airline SpiceJet has ordered 136 737 MAX aircraft and has taken delivery of seven. This will transform its fleet as the airline expands significantly. It currently operates 66 737NG family aircraft and is planning an expansion with a new Middle East base.
With the news that the 737 is returning to service, would you like to share any thoughts on the airlines that will operate it? Let us know in the comments.