Boeing has a sizeable backlog of airplane orders. The US planemaker has 5,070 aircraft on order yet to be delivered as of the end of July 2021. We take a look at the largest unfilled orders to see which customers are anticipating the most Boeing aircraft over the coming years.
Unidentified customers – 689 737 MAX
The largest unfilled orders are attributed not to one customer, but to many. Some orders are made without the customer being revealed, and these show up on Boeing’s order book as ‘Unidentified Customers.’ These could be commercial airlines or leasing firms, and until such time as they wish to be disclosed, we won’t know who is behind them.
The very largest outstanding order on Boeing’s book is for the 737 MAX, with 689 units ordered by unidentified customers. However, this is likely to be a group of customers rather than just one, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether this counts as an ‘order’ or not.
Unidentified customers also have outstanding orders for the 787-9 (33 units), the 787-10 (18 units), the 777F (10 units), and the 777X (10 units). Also in there are eight 787-8s, six 767-300F, two 737-800, and single units of the 777-300ER, the 747-8, and the 737-700.
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United Airlines’ huge order – 380 737 MAX
The largest unfulfilled order on Boeing’s books for a named customer is the huge 380 aircraft outstanding 737 MAX order for United Airlines. The airline made waves earlier this year when it placed the largest order in its history and the biggest by a single carrier in more than a decade.
In June, it ordered a total of 270 aircraft for its fleet renewal. As well as 70 A321neos, the order contained an additional 200 737 MAX. Combined with its existing order, that took the airline’s commitment for the new generation 737 to a total of 380 planes. Together with the 30 that had already been delivered by that time, this will give the airline an eventual fleet of 410 737 MAX aircraft.
United is the launch customer of the 737 MAX 10, having first placed an order for the largest MAX back in 2017 when it converted 100 of its MAX 9 commitments to the larger variant. Clearly, the airline feels confident about the type, as 150 of its June order was for the -10, with just 50 for the smaller MAX 8.
Southwest Airlines not far behind – 370 737 MAX
If there’s an airline that goes hand in hand with the 737 family, it’s Southwest Airlines. A long time all-Boeing 737 operator, the MAX was the natural progression for this low-cost carrier. Unfortunately for the airline, this meant that it was one of the worst-hit when the plane was grounded.
As the biggest operator of the 737 MAX, Southwest lost a significant amount of capacity at the point of grounding. While 34 aircraft out of a fleet of more than 700 doesn’t sound like much, it played havoc with the airline’s plans. In mid-2019, as the airline pulled the MAX from its schedules through 2020, it said the effect was that, rather than a capacity growth of 5% in 2019, it would instead end the year with a contraction of 1-2%.
Nevertheless, the carrier has remained committed to the new generation aircraft, and welcomed it back with open arms following its approval to fly in late 2020. Since then, the airline has boosted its order by 100 aircraft in March, and then by another 34 in June. As of now, it has a fleet of 68 737 MAX 8s in operation, and another 370 yet to be delivered, mixed between the 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 7.
Lion Air’s uncertain order – 237 737 MAX
As one of the two airlines to be directly impacted by the tragic MAX crashes, Lion Air’s future with the type was looking incredibly uncertain. When the type was cleared to fly in November last year by the FAA, several of the victims’ families spoke out, saying they believed it was still too soon to unground the plane.
Nevertheless, the type is approved to fly, and Boeing still has an outstanding order for 237 737 MAX on its order book. The outstanding order includes 10 MAX 8s, four MAX 9s, and 50 MAX 10s. The rest of its commitment is not allocated to a specific variant yet.
VietJet’s outstanding narrowbodies – 200 737 MAX
VietJet announced an order for the 737 MAX in February 2019, just before the grounding of the type. It firmed an order for 80 737 MAX 10 and 20 737 MAX 8. It had already committed to 100 737 MAX previously, boosting its order to 200 of the type.
As of now, the airline still has not taken delivery of any of its outstanding order. Data from ch-aviation suggests these will start arriving in 2022 onwards. Interestingly, VietJet has specified 28 of its 737 MAX 8 order to the Ryanair ‘gamechanger’ aircraft – the 737 MAX 8-200. This special super-dense aircraft was specifically designed for the low-cost market, and features an extra exit door to accommodate the additional passengers.
Loyal customer Ryanair – 199 737 MAX
Talking of Ryanair, the European low-cost airline rounds out the list of the biggest unfulfilled orders on Boeing’s books. As mentioned, it has pioneered the development of a specific variant of the 737 MAX 8, which accommodates more passengers than the standard version in an extra-dense layout.
The airline had been keen to get its hands on the aircraft that CEO Michael O’Leary likes to call the ‘gamechanger.’ It was expecting to have several in service in time for summer 2019, but as the grounding hit, it became clear it would not be able to take delivery. Summer 2020 came and went too, but the airline remained committed to this next-generation aircraft. So much so that it even placed an order for 75 more aircraft before EASA had ungrounded the type or it had taken a single delivery.
Finally, in April this year, the MAX 8-200 received type certification from the FAA. Days later, EASA approved the type for operations, opening the door for deliveries to Ryanair to begin. Eventually, in June, the first 737 MAX for Ryanair left Seattle, and by the end of that month, the airline had operated its first revenue flight.
According to ch-aviation, the airline now has a total of 12 737 MAX in its fleet. Boeing’s order book states that it is expecting deliveries of a further 199.
What about widebodies?
It’s probably no big surprise that narrowbodies make up the bulk of Boeing’s unfilled order book. However, there are some sizeable widebody orders in there too. The largest is the 777X order for Emirates, which currently stands at 115 aircraft. Qatar’s 777X order comes in second, with 60 planes.
Interestingly, the 767 is still hanging about, although not for passenger use. BDS USAF Tanker Program is awaiting deliveries of 50 Boeing 767-2C, a modified version of the 767 also known as the KC-46, which can be used for aerial refueling, as well as carrying passengers, cargo, and patients. Major cargo airline FedEx is also anticipating 43 767-300F to be delivered.
Notably absent from the biggest unfilled orders is the Boeing Dreamliner family. There are some sizeable orders outstanding, but not in the realms of its narrowbody cousins. The largest belongs to Emirates, which is awaiting 30 new 787-9s. American Airlines is down for a further 25 787-9, and Qatar for 23.
Are you surprised by the largest outstanding orders on Boeing’s books?