Could Southwest Airlines Ever Operate An Airbus Aircraft?

Southwest Airlines is perhaps the most famous Boeing 737 operator in the world. Its entire fleet is made up of Boeing 737s. This includes the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX. However, amid this grounding, could Southwest defect from Boeing and go for Airbus aircraft?

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737
Could Southwest, known for its iconic Boeing 737 fleet, fly an Airbus aircraft? Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines and the 737

Southwest loves its 737 aircraft. It is well known that no airline would ever pay a lower price for a Boeing 737 than Southwest as per a “handshake agreement.” And, it seems that since then, Southwest has gotten pretty attractive pricing on 737s.

According to its fleet page, the airline has over 750 Boeing 737s as of June 30, 2019. Most of these are Boeing 737-700s. However, a decent number of them are Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Not to mention, Southwest has hundreds of MAX aircraft on order.

Southwest Airlines MAX nose
Southwest Airlines has hundreds of 737 MAX aircraft on order. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Onboard, the narrowbody is outfitted in a traditional 3-3 configuration. As a low-cost carrier, the airline operates an all-economy configuration. And, the airline is unique in that it does not offer pre-reservable seating. Rather, passengers select their seats once onboard. This helps reduce turnaround time, since passengers are more likely to show up on time for boarding in order to get a good seat. That is, avoid a middle seat.

Southwest interior
Southwest operates its aircraft in an all-economy interior. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest and Airbus

Earlier this year, it seemed that Southwest was looking at Airbus aircraft, specifically, the A220. Previously known as the Bombardier CSeries, the A220 is the smallest aircraft in Airbus’ lineup. However, no orders followed.

Airbus A220
The Airbus A220 is the smallest passenger aircraft in terms of capacity in the Airbus lineup. Photo: Airbus

The A220 does not directly compete with the Boeing 737. Rather, Airbus has its own narrowbody to compete. The Airbus A320ceo and next-generation Airbus A320neo are tailored to compete directly with the 737.

A320 and C Series
The Airbus A320 competes more directly with the 737 than the A220. Photo: Airbus

Southwest could reasonably take on either aircraft. The A320 would fit more in terms of interior standardization since onboard the standard seating is in a 3-3 configuration. Meanwhile, the A220 is in a standard 2-3 configuration. However, the A220 could work if Southwest wants a smaller, 100-seater aircraft to fit more niche destinations in which a 737 or A320 would be too large.

What message would it send if Southwest ordered Airbus aircraft?

This would be a big shock to the industry, kind of like that of Delta’s tie-up with LATAM. If Southwest were to order Airbus aircraft, it would send a signal that the airline is losing confidence in Boeing. Moreover, it could also take the shape of IAG’s letter of intent with Boeing. In this case, it would give Southwest more freedom and flexibility outside of “Boeing captivity.”

Airbus A320
If Southwest ordered Airbus aircraft, it would send a shockwave through the aviation world. Photo: Airbus

Neither Southwest nor Airbus have announced any sort of order, letter of intent, or even proposal solicitation. Simple Flying reached out to Southwest, however, we did not hear back in time for publication. This article will be updated if we receive a comment from Southwest Airlines.

Should Southwest order Airbus aircraft? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!