Reports Suggest Southwest Is Seeking Whitetail 737 MAXs

Southwest Airlines is reportedly looking to take up to 30 ‘whitetail’ 737 MAX aircraft, according to a new report by Bloomberg. The manufacturer has been left with many unclaimed 737 MAX aircraft after orders for the type have been canceled.

Boeing, 737 MAX 8, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise
Southwest Airlines is reportedly interested in whitetail 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Almost 20 months ago, the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa. Following many test flights of the aircraft, it seems that we’re now getting close to the aircraft’s recertification. This will see deliveries of the aircraft resuming, but some are left with no buyer to take them.

Southwest is interested in whitetails

According to Bloomberg, Southwest Airlines is reportedly interested in taking as many as 30 unclaimed 737 MAX aircraft. However, it seems that the airline wouldn’t be seeking to view such aircraft as additional orders. Instead, it looks as though the airline would look to take delivery of ready to go MAX aircraft now, as opposed to currently unbuilt aircraft further down the line.

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A month ago, Simple Flying reported that the manufacturer had reportedly approached Delta Air Lines regarding the sale of as many as 40 of the unclaimed Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Bloomberg reports that United and Alaska Air have also been approached.

southwest 737 MAX
Southwest Airlines has the largest grounded 737 MAX fleets. Photo: Getty Images

What is a whitetail Boeing 737 MAX?

But what exactly is a whitetail aircraft? Quite simply, it is an aircraft that has been built but has no customer to take it. This can occur from time to time, for example, when an airline with outstanding orders goes bankrupt. However, the grounding of the 737 MAX has left Boeing in a unique position.

Boeing initially continued producing the 737 MAX while the aircraft was grounded, expecting that the type’s grounding would be reasonably short. Boeing was not able to deliver any 737 MAX aircraft once the type had been grounded. There are now around 450 aircraft that have been built but not delivered.

Bloomberg reports that of the undelivered aircraft that have been built, around a quarter are unclaimed after their orders were canceled. This equates to roughly 112 airframes.

Boeing 737 MAX, Southwest Airlines, Whitetail
Poland’s Enter Air is the only airline to order the 737 MAX so far this year. Photo: Boeing

Why doesn’t Ryanair take the aircraft?

One airline that is keen to get its hands on the MAX as soon as possible is Ryanair. However, these whitetail aircraft aren’t suitable for the Irish LCC. The airline has ordered the MAX 200, a variant of the 737 MAX 8. The aircraft is structurally different from the MAX 8 in that it has an additional emergency exit behind the wings.

There is some positive news on the horizon for 737 MAX customers awaiting their aircraft. Earlier today, Simple Flying reported that the aircraft type’s recertification could be in the final stages, with November 18th being a potential date for the ungrounding.

Should Southwest Airlines take some of these unclaimed whitetail airframes? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!