Southwest CEO: We May Not Be an All-737 Carrier ‘Into Perpetuity’

Apr 25, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Southwest Airlines has long been synonymous with the Boeing 737, but could that be set for a change?

It may remain a long shot, but Southwest CEO Gary Kelly at least left the door open to that possibility in the wake of the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX variant.

“We’re an all-Boeing 737 carrier,” Kelly said in a Thursday interview with CNBC. “That doesn’t mean that we’ll be an all-737 carrier into perpetuity.”

Kelly’s comments come against the backdrop of the airline’s quarterly earnings report, in which Southwest said it has been forced to cancel more than 10,000 flights since the MAX variant of the 737 was grounded in March. Southwest has 34 737 MAX jets in its fleet of about 750 total aircraft; all are versions of the 737.

Southwest’s fleet has been comprised almost exclusively of Boeing 737 jets ever since the low-cost carrier launched in 1971. There were briefly some 727s in the company’s fleet in the 1970s and 1980s while Southwest inherited an AirTran fleet that included Boeing 717s when that carrier was acquired in 2010. Southwest subsequently sold those 717s to Delta Air Lines. Kelly’s comments also come after a report in Jon Ostrower’s The Air Current industry website said Southwest representatives “visited an Airbus A220 operator in Europe, kicking the tires on the aircraft” and learning more about the operator’s experience with the single-aisle jet.

Ostrower’s report, which cited an unnamed “person familiar with the trip,” ran under a headline reading “737 Max grounding tests Southwest’s relationship with Boeing.”

Still, it’s not clear how much reading between the lines there is to be done on Kelly’s “perpetuity” statement.

While he told CNBC that “we’re not happy about this MAX situation,” he did follow with praise for 737 MAX.

“When we launched (the) MAX airplane, we felt like it was the best single-aisle airplane in the world, and we still feel that way,” he said to CNBC.

Further, Reuters notes “It is not the first time Southwest has hinted about fleet changes, which could benefit Boeing’s European rival Airbus, but such a decision would mean abandoning Southwest’s long-held practice of flying only one type of jet, which reduces maintenance and pilot training costs.”

Reuters talked to an unnamed “source familiar with Southwest’s thinking” who said Boeing could instead consider a different Boeing model. “It makes more sense to ease into any transition with the same manufacturer,” the source said to Reuters, though it’s not clear what other Boeing model might be a good fit for Southwest.

Aside from the 737, the only other commercial airplanes currently in production by Boeing are widebody aircraft typically used on overseas flights.

Elsewhere in Southwest’s earnings report, the carrier said Hawaii would be Southwest’s primary focus for expansion through 2020.

After years of anticipation, Southwest began flying to Hawaii just last month, launching the first of several routes to California.

More is coming, Kelly said.

“Our interisland service is scheduled to begin on April 28th, with service between Honolulu and Maui, and between Honolulu and Kona on the island of Hawaii on May 12th,” Kelly said in a statement accompanying Southwest’s earnings. “More service is planned for the previously announced gateways of San Diego and Sacramento, and for Lihue on Kauai. We are very pleased with our Hawaii performance, thus far, and expect Hawaii to be the key expansion focus in 2019 and 2020.”

Featured image: Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.