US carrier Southwest Airlines announced on Monday an agreement to buy 100 of Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 planes as it plans to retire older jets. It is the largest order for the troubled jet since its grounding in 2019.
The Dallas-based low-cost airline company said that under the deal it would convert 70 of its firm orders for MAX 8 planes to the smallest jets, the MAX 7s. It also added 155 options for 737 MAX 7 or MAX 8 airplanes through 2029.
“This cost-effective order book with Boeing allows the Company to maintain the operational efficiencies of an all-Boeing 737 fleet to support its low-cost, point-to-point route network,” Southwest said in a statement.
It expects to receive 30 of the 737 MAX 7 aircraft in 2022, in addition to 28 MAX 8s this year, totaling 69 units by the end of 2021. The airline said that 17 craft in the 737-700 series will be retired in the same period. It had firm orders for 281 of the jets before Monday’s announcement, including the planes it has already taken delivery of.
In January, Southwest reached an agreement with Boeing to delay deliveries of some of the 737 MAX planes it had ordered due to a plunge in air-travel demand from the Covid pandemic and its first annual loss in almost half a century.
“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success. Today’s commitment to the 737 Max solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our Employees and Customers for years to come,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world’s largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet,” he added.
Southwest’s order comes as the 737 MAX has just reentered service after two deadly crashes caused a nearly two-year global grounding that ended late last year. In November, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the 737 MAX to fly again, with FAA chief Stephen Dickson saying he was “100% comfortable with [his] family flying on it.”
Brazilian carrier Gol, which operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet, became the first airline to relaunch the jets in December. Later, American Airlines operated the first commercial flight of the jet in the United States. Southwest returned the plane to service on March 11.
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