Southwest Airlines will continue to be an all-Boeing airline despite the high-profile issues surrounding the MAX. Southwest CEO, Gary Kelly, has revealed the airline’s ‘Plan A’ is to remain a Boeing customer, dubbing the MAX-7 and MAX-8 planes as the best in the world in their arena.
Southwest has no plans to change aircraft
In a webinar with The Wings Club, CEO Gary Kelly says Southwest will stick by Boeing as authorities worldwide begin to unground the MAX plane. The MAX was grounded in March 2019 for over 20 months before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recertified the plane this November. Kelly noted during the webinar,
“Plan A is to continue to be an all Boeing customer. And Boeing has been a great partner for close to 50 years. It’s really a question of the MAX-7 and MAX-8… we feel like that’s the best airplane in the world in its segment.”
At the same time, he did have praise for the Airbus A220 and said, “it’s always nice to have alternative options.” In terms of diversifying its fleet, it’s doubtful Southwest will make a foray into smaller sized aircraft. When posed the question, CEO Kelly claimed the airline is not looking at investing in smaller planes as its current arrangement works perfectly.
“We don’t want to have a smaller aircraft type. We don’t want to have that added complexity. We like the 140 to 150 seaters, and the larger 175 seaters that work very well.”
MAX’s will replace older aircraft in oversized fleet
Although the MAX has been certified to fly again, not all carriers are rushing their MAX’s back into action. Under current projections, Southwest aims to have their MAX’s in the sky again “no later than early April.” Southwest has been operating with a fleet of 737-700 and 737-800 planes while its 34 MAX-8s have been grounded.
Once the MAX’s are back in the air, they will take over from older 737-700s rather than operating additional flights. As demand for air travel is still a fraction of pre-COVID levels, CEO Kelly has no problem taking out 737-700s while the superior MAX-8 takes over,
“If we don’t need to fly more than what we’re currently flying, we would simply set down some older 700s and replace them with MAX-8s. As a general rule, that doesn’t mean we’re going to retire those airplanes.”
However, Kelly has admitted the carrier is operating with a bloated fleet, which will pose questions about future downsizing,
The airline has no plans to retire any of its older planes at the current time. Photo: Getty Images
“We’ve got a fleet of let’s call it 734 airplanes at the end of the third quarter, and hundreds of them are unnecessary right now. So we’re paying for them, and they’re just sitting there.”
Instilling confidence in the MAX
Given the issues that the MAX has faced over the past 20+ months, customer confidence in the plane is understandably low. With 88 MAX orders canceled in November alone, it seems some airlines also have their reservations. CEO Kelly was questioned on whether or not Southwest needs to re-establish confidence in the MAX. He responded,
“For those customers who are anxious about it, it is mostly a wait and see, it is not ‘I will never’. It’s had the most exhaustive review and scrutiny of any airplane in the history of the world.”
How confident are you to fly on the MAX again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.