It has been a tough couple of years for Boeing’s 737 MAX program. However, after a wobbly time in the order books, some early customers are showing renewed faith in the model. Its biggest supporters – the largest Boeing narrowbody LCCs from all over the world and one up-until-now all-Airbus carrier. Let’s take a look at the top five.
Few aircraft models have had such a turbulent start to their career as the Boeing 737 MAX. What looked to be a future bestseller and a solution to many of the airline industry’s conundrums suffered not only from the lengthy grounding following two high-profile fatal accidents. It also coincided with a time when airlines are canceling and deferring orders like never before.
In 2019, Boeing lost 93 orders of the MAX. In 2020, it lost over 800. This year has so far been a bit of a roller-coaster with cancellations from some carriers, while others have shown a renewed confidence in the type with substantial additional orders. But which are the top five Boeing 737 MAX airline customers?
Southwest ahead of the pack
With Southwest Airlines only yesterday coming in strong with an order for an additional 100 MAX jets and options for another 155, it has increased its lead in the top spot. The all-Boeing 737 airline now has firm orders for 200 737 MAX 7s and 180 MAX 8s, for a total of 380.
Southwest has already taken delivery of 60 MAX 8s and is expecting the first of its MAX 7s very shortly. It is thus far the only carrier except WestJet to order the smallest version of the plane.
flydubai and Lion Air tied for second
In shared second place, the next LCC betting heavily on the many benefits of the 737 MAX is flydubai. The UAE-based budget airline has orders for 251 of the model – 131 of the MAX 8, 70 of the MAX 9, and 50 of the MAX 10 with its additional fuel tank allowing for greater range. So far, it has taken delivery of 14 – 11 of the MAX 8s and three of the MAX 9s.
In another part of the world, another budget carrier has just as many orders. However, even if all of them are fulfilled, Lion Air will end up with one MAX less than flydubai, as it lost one of its MAX 8s in the horrific crash of Flight 610 in October 2018.
The Indonesian LCC has orders for a total of ten of the MAX 8, four MAX 9s, 50 MAX 10s, with 187 still listed as undecided. Lion Air has taken delivery of 11 thus far, counting the one lost.
In fourth place, we find another all-Boeing 737 carrier operating on a different continent. Also displaying renewed support for the MAX program with an order for 75 new MAX 200s in December last year, Ryanair now has firm orders for 210 of the special version of the MAX 8.
The Irish low-cost specialist is yet to take delivery of its first MAX, but the first units are expected to arrive with the airline in April. Ryanair has said it will first deploy the jet on routes in the UK.
Number five is VietJet. The Vietnamese LCC has orders for 200 of the aircraft – 120 of the MAX 8s and a full 80 of the longer-range MAX 10s. VietJet has not yet taken delivery of any of its MAXs but could be inching closer as Vietnam is soon set to lift its ban on the type. Meanwhile, it seems it may need to wait for its first MAX 10s until at least 2023. The MAXs will be VietJet’s first Boeing, as its fleet thus far consists of the Airbus A320 family.