Southwest Airlines has revealed in a stock exchange filing today that it expects to take delivery of 35 Boeing 737 MAX over the course of 2021. These aircraft will be paired with retirements of the 737-700, so will not see the fleet grow. The airline still anticipates flying the MAX in revenue service in Q2 of 2021.
35 MAX in 2021
With the 737 MAX now approved to fly in the US, Boeing is starting to shift its huge backlog of undelivered aircraft. The planemaker has an estimated 450 737 MAX aircraft built and ready to be delivered to their new owners, making up a large part of its biggest built inventory in history.
While United and American Airlines have both already received shiny new additions to their fleets, Southwest is yet to take a new aircraft. As the biggest operator of the type pre-grounding, and the airline with the biggest outstanding order book, Boeing is likely keen to resume deliveries to its best narrowbody customer.
Today, in a stock exchange filing, Southwest said it had reached an agreement with Boeing to take delivery of the planes. The filing said,
The Company recently reached an agreement with The Boeing Company (Boeing Agreement) to take delivery of the delayed MAX aircraft and currently expects to receive 35 MAX 8 deliveries, including 16 leased aircraft, through the end of 2021.
While 35 is a good number of deliveries to anticipate, around three per month in 2021, it doesn’t mean Southwest is growing. The airline previously said its fleet was much too large for its needs right now, and confirmed in the filing that the deliveries would be matched by retirements of its 737-700s.
Capital expenditure is ‘immaterial’
Interestingly, the filing also said that, despite an influx of new metal to the airline, the capital costs would be minimal. Southwest said that its progress payments already made, coupled with delivery credits and a settlement from Boeing for damages, meant that,
The Company currently estimates an immaterial amount of aircraft capital expenditures in fourth quarter 2020 and full year 2021.
Details of the settlement with Boeing have not been shared as they are confidential, but for Southwest, this looks to be a win-win. By the end of 2021, the airline will have replaced at least 35 aging 737-700s with highly efficient MAX aircraft without digging down the back of the sofa to find the capital to pay for them.
When will Southwest fly the MAX?
Southwest has been one of the more cautious MAX users in terms of the aircraft’s restart. It previously said it wanted to train every pilot to fly the type before it entered service. So far, it anticipates bringing the MAX back into passenger service in the second quarter of 2021.
That’s in stark contrast to many other airlines, some of whom have already begun flying. GOL was first to fly the MAX and is set to be joined next week by Aeromexico. American Airlines will fly before the end of December, and United plans to begin operations in early 2021.
Nevertheless, it looks like Southwest is gearing up for a better summer 2021 than it had this year, with new planes and new routes to tempt in the passengers.
Are you looking forward to trying out Southwest’s MAX? Let us know in the comments.