Southwest Airlines is looking to take on second-hand Boeing 737NG aircraft to make up on lost ground due to the 737 MAX groundings. Additionally, the airline has had to defer the retirement of seven 737-700s due to the ongoing saga.
The carrier is one of the 737 MAX’s biggest customers. Its 310 orders meant that it was heavily relying on the aircraft on operations this decade. Even the 34 MAXs that it holds already have been sitting idle since March 2019.
Altogether, Southwest’s full-year operating profit was down 28 percent in 2019. Moreover, the company profited $828 million less than if the MAX has been in service.
CH-Aviation reports that Southwest CEO Gary Kelly shared the Dallas-based airline’s plans for its 737 aircraft during an earnings call on January 23rd.
“With our -700 retirement schedule, we have a lot of flexibility. So we’re actively deferring retirements where it makes sense. Secondly, we’re always monitoring the used 737 aircraft market. We’ll continue to do that,” Kelly said..
Meanwhile, CFO Tammy Romo went further into detail on the outlook for his carrier’s fleet. He shared that seven of the 18 737-700s will be kept on, despite originally being prepared for retirement last year. This move will also incur additional maintenance expenses of $10 million for Southwest.
“We’ll operate these seven aircraft for around two more years and they are scheduled to be retired by the end of 2021,” Romo shared.
“As for the remaining eleven -700’s retirement plan for 2019, we retired six of them; one in the third quarter and five during the fourth quarter. The remaining five retirements have shifted to the first half of 2020,”
Ultimately, Southwest plans to retire 16 737-700s this year. This includes the five that it hoped to let go in 2019. Nonetheless, despite the company expecting that the MAX will remain out of service by June 6, it assumes that there are only months to go and not years till it is back in action.
Preparations in place
The airline recently shared its plan on how it will reintroduce its jets when they are cleared by authorities. Extensive maintenance checks and crew training will be conducted before passenger services will resume.
Additionally, it is investing in simulators to help pilots familiarize themselves with the planes. Therefore, the firm is ensuring that it will be ready for action as soon as possible.
Simple Flying reached out to Southwest Airlines for comment on its Boeing 737 aircraft.
A Southwest spokesperson confirmed that the company decided to defer 18 of its originally planned 737-700 retirements for 2019 and 2020, combined. The airline did this to help it mitigate the fleet deficit that it is experiencing due to the MAX groundings.
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