Could Southwest Airlines Break From Being An All 737 Carrier?

It was on October 22nd at Southwest Airline’s third-quarter earnings call that the carrier’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven disclosed that the Airbus A220 is being considered as a future addition to the fleet. Once believed to be an impenetrable Boeing stronghold, it’s much more of a possibility these days that an Airbus jet could join the existing Southwest fleet of Boeing 737s.

Southwest 737
Southwest Airlines has one of the world’s largest 737 fleets. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

The Boeing 737 MAX 7 vs. the Airbus A220

So, what exactly was spoken about the A220 to result in a 1.1% drop in Boeing’s share price? Well, here’s the portion of Southwest’s earnings call transcript referencing the aircraft shopping:

“…in our network, there is definitely a need for what I would say 140, 150-seat airplane versus 175-seat airplane. Today — at the present time, we’re mostly focused on the MAX 8, the 175-seat airplane. And the A220 and the MAX 7, they’re the two players in the marketplace. And both of those airplanes have their strengths and their disadvantages. And […] we’ve been looking at both airplanes. We will continue that evaluation.” -Mike Van de Ven, Chief Operating Officer, Southwest Airlines via

Air Canada A220
As far as North American carriers are concerned, it’s just Air Canada, JetBlue, and Delta Air Lines that have adopted the Airbus A220. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

When could Southwest make a decision?

Of course, immediately after the above statement, Van de Ven added that this decision (between the MAX 7 and the A220) wouldn’t need to be made “until probably 2025 and beyond.”

The COO also said the following, according to Seeking Alpha:

“So today, we’re just really focused on the MAX, getting the MAX back into service, making sure that we have the right delivery schedule with Boeing.”

CEO Gary Kelly adds the following, noting that now is a good time to study the matter:

“And we don’t know when we’re going to grow, and we have a surplus of aircraft. So the only thing that I would willingly admit is that if there were ever a scenario for us to consider making a change in aircraft type, it would be now because we are not desperate to grow the airline and may not be for a long time.”

Kelly goes on to say that his Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer are working to make sure that the airline will be sure to “have the best 150-ish seat narrow-body airplane in the world in terms of performance, in terms of economics, in terms of fit” into the system. He concludes by saying that the environment lends itself to the time that would be required for the carrier to make this kind of investment.

Southwest 737
Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Long-time speculation further confirmed

It’s been over a year and a half since there was initial speculation that Southwest was considering the Airbus A220. In April 2019, in the aftermath of the 2nd Boeing 737 MAX crash, it was reported that members of the Southwest team were in Europe evaluating the Airbus A220. 

At the time, Bizjournal reported that CEO Gary Kelly made the following statement:

“Obviously, at this point in time, we don’t have any plans to change there. But like anyone, we’ll have to constantly evaluate what’s available in the marketplace. And we’ve been a Boeing customer all these years, and I think chances are we’ll continue to be a Boeing customer.” 

Do you think Southwest should go for a mixed fleet and choose the Airbus A220-300 over the Boeing 737 MAX 7? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Simple Flying contacted Southwest’s communications team for additional comments. However, an airline spokesperson told us that there was nothing to add to the comments made within the earnings call.