Only four airlines in the United States have ordered the controversial Boeing 737 MAX. with the aircraft ungrounded, Boeing is free to begin delivering its narrowbodies once more. But which airlines ordered the type, and how many are they expecting?
Southwest – the world’s biggest MAX operator
Prior to the grounding, Southwest was already the biggest operator of the 737 MAX, despite only having 34 in its fleet. As a relatively new aircraft, Southwest had only received a tiny portion of its total order when the type was removed from service.
Nevertheless, Southwest is set to remain the world’s biggest operator of the 737 MAX. Its total order book stands at 280 aircraft, 250 of which are the MAX 8 and 30 the smaller MAX 7. There have been rumors that some of the white tail 737 MAX could also end up here, although nothing has been formally announced.
However, CEO Gary Kelly says that even this is not enough for the complete fleet renewal Southwest wants. He still needs a solution for replacing its aging fleet of 737-700s. For this, he could order more MAX, or could even break with tradition and order the A220.
Southwest is yet to fly the 737 MAX on passenger service, and is in no great hurry to put it back into its schedules. The airline plans to train every pilot to fly the type before its first revenue operation, and is eyeing a Q2 2021 introduction for the MAX.
American and United
Although Southwest has the world’s largest order of 737 MAX on Boeing’s books, United Airlines has placed a sizeable commitment to the type also. The airline has orders in for 185 737 MAX, of which 14 were delivered pre-grounding. From United’s order, 100 are the 737 MAX-10, and 85 for the MAX 9.
Behind United is American Airlines, which has orders in for a total of 100 737 MAX. Pre-grounding, it had 24 in its fleet. All are the 737 MAX 8. It followed United and received a factory-fresh MAX just yesterday, taking its total to 25 aircraft in the fleet.
American has been busy reassuring passengers that the aircraft is safe to fly. It organized employee-only flights to nowhere to give it a test run and to give crew a chance to check it out. CEO Doug Parker traveled as a passenger on one of the flights, as a MAX was ferried from Tulsa to Dallas.
Alaska Airlines has 32 Boeing 737 MAX on order from the planemaker. A number of these have been spotted already built, and all are the MAX 9 variant. Recently, Alaska upped its commitment to the type, firming up an agreement to lease another 13 MAX 9 in exchange for 10 of its ex-Virgin America A320s. This takes its total incoming fleet to a significant 41.
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While the airline is yet to receive any of its MAX, it likely won’t be long before we see the first arrivals. It plans to begin service with the type in March 2021.
So how many?
In total, the United States will see the delivery of some 606 737 MAX, pending any further changes or cancellations. With that, it will become the nation with the largest number of MAX aircraft in operation.
Other large fleets of MAX will, eventually, be seen in Southeast Asia, where Lion Air has orders in for 251 and VietJet for 200. Other large orders are in place for SpiceJet in India, with 136, and 101 for first-to-fly GOL in Brazil. 125 were ordered for Jet Airways, but where they’ll end up remains to be seen.