Which Airlines Are Boeing’s Biggest Customers?

Since the beginning of the jet era, Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division has built and delivered close to 20,000 aircraft. It currently has orders for nearly another 6,000, and almost half of all the world’s jetliner fleet today is made up of Boeing-built planes. But just who has ordered the most of the manufacturer jets over time?

Boeing 787
Which airlines have been Boeing’s biggest customers to date? Photo: Getty Images

Boeing has had a troublesome few years. Two fatal crashes in a row involving the 737 MAX caused the prolonged grounding of Boeing’s somewhat rushed update of its bestseller narrowbody jet. Quality control issues have marred the 787 Dreamliner project, and the first delivery date for its new flagship dual-aisle 777X has been pushed back a number of times.

However, one must not forget the thousands of aircraft bearing the Boeing brand that successfully and safely ferry passengers to and fro across the globe on a daily basis. According to data from ch-aviation, there are currently 9,695 active Boeing aircraft in the world, divided over 577 carriers.

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United Airlines

While often taking a backseat to its compatriot and competitor American, United sits firmly at the top of the list of Boeing’s best customers. Since it signed for the company’s first four-engined jet, the 707, in 1959, United Airlines has ordered close to a whopping 1,850 Boeing aircraft.

United 787 and 777
United Airlines is Boeing’s biggest customer, with over 1,850 planes ordered since the late 1950s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

While it currently operates nearly 100 each of the Airbus A319 and the A320, the majority of its fleet of 840 aircraft is made up of Boeing jets. United flies everything from the 767-300ER to the 737 MAX 9. Its current fleet consists of 342 of the 737NG family, 30 MAX 9s, 61 Boeing 757s, 54 767s, 96 Triple Sevens, and 63 Dreamliners.

United has another 180 MAX jets on order – 40 MAX 8s, 49 MAX 9s, and 92 of the MAX 10, the largest of Boeing’s narrowbodies which is now scheduled for delivery in 2023. However, beyond the type, the orderbook is quite empty as United is only waiting for one more 787-10 Dreamliner to join its current 13 of the type. Meanwhile, United has orders with Boeing’s European rival for 50 Airbus A321XLRs and 45 A350-900s.

Southwest Airlines loyalty to the MAX

All-737 low-cost giant Southwest Airlines clocks in at 1,219 orders. The airline has operated all the classic models of the 737 as well as the 737-200. It currently flies 737-700s, -800s, and the 737 MAX 8. Southwest is strongly committed to Boeing’s 737 MAX program, despite its setbacks. The airline’s CEO Gary Kelly said in an interview in December last year that,

“Plan A is to continue to be an all Boeing customer. And Boeing has been a great partner for close to 50 years. It’s really a question of the MAX-7 and MAX-8… we feel like that’s the best airplane in the world in its segment.”

Southwest Boeing 737 MAX Jets
Southwest is by far Boeing’s biggest 737 MAX customer, recently displaying its loyalty to the program by adding another 100 jets to the orderbook. Photo: Getty Images

The airline has orders for 349 737 MAXs, 100 of which were announced in late March this year, giving the program a significant boost after several cancellations. Two hundred of these are MAX 7s and 150 MAX 8s. Thus far, it has taken delivery of 66 of the latter. In addition, the carrier has options for another 270 of the jet through 2031.

American Airlines

In third place, we have the world’s largest airline by fleet. Since its first order of 25 Boeing 707s in 1958, American Airlines has ordered 1,088 Boeing jets. In 2011, American ordered 200 planes from the 737 family, 100 of which were turned into 737 MAX 8 orders two years later.

787-8 American Airlines
American Airlines is one of Boeing’s biggest Dreamliner customers. Photo: Getty Images

While a huge deal for Boeing, the fact that American also ordered 260 of Airbus’ A320 family in what was at the time the largest combined aircraft order in history might have been somewhat of a fly in the ointment for the US planemaker.

American Airlines currently operates a fleet of 457 Boeing planes, a little over half of its 889 strong mixed fleet. The majority of these are 737-800s, of which the airline has 303. The carrier has orders for another 102 aircraft with Boeing. Forty-three of these are 787 Dreamliners, and 59 are 737 MAX 8s.

Emirates highest-value single order

In terms of list-price value, the single-biggest Boeing order was placed in 2013 when Emirates said it would take 150 of the 777X, valued at $76 billion ($83 billion in 2020) with options for another 50. The carrier initially swapped 30 of the orders for the smaller 787s in 2019, and it looks increasingly likely that another such move could be on the cards.

Which Airlines Are Boeing’s Biggest Customers?
Gulf carrier Emirates is the world’s largest Triple Seven operator and is expecting to take over 100 of the 777X. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

All in all, Emirates has ordered 312 Boeing aircraft. All of these are widebodies, which is unsurprising as Emirates has an all dual-aisle fleet, apart from its lonesome A319 corporate jet. The airline is also by far the biggest Triple Seven operator in the world, with 145 of the jets currently in its fleet.

Largest orders placed for the 737 MAX

The Emirates order is not the largest for Boeing in terms of the number of aircraft. In 2012, Lion Air ordered 201 737 MAX aircraft. The Indonesian low-cost carrier was upstaged in late 2013 when flydubai signed for a total of 251 MAXs.

Ryanair even has a special version of Boeing’s 737 MAX, seating 11 passengers more than the standard MAX 8. Photo: Boeing

Another MAX fan, Irish budget airline Ryanair, has ordered a total of 210 of its special version 737 8 200. This takes Europe’s largest low-cost airline total number of Boeing orders up to 741, beginning in 1998. Ryanair was also Boeing’s biggest customer in 2020, placing an order for 75 additional MAXs. Furthermore, the airline is in talks with the planemaker for 100+ 737 MAX 10s.

Meanwhile, Boeing’s largest customer for the 787 Dreamliner is All Nippon Airways (ANA) which has ordered 95. UAE-based Etihad has ordered 71, American Airlines 70, and United Airlines 64.

How many of Boeing’s jets have you flown on? What airline’s livery do you think suits them best? Which airline will be the first to place another significant order with the planemaker? Leave a comment below and let us know.