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Southwest Airlines places massive 737 MAX order, fleet to remain all-Boeing

March 29, 2021
3 min read
Southwest Airlines places massive 737 MAX order, fleet to remain all-Boeing
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"If it's not Boeing, I'm not going," reads the popular slogan for many fans of the Chicago-based planemaker.

Boeing loyalists who follow that mantra can continue flying Southwest well into the next decade, as the airline announced a massive order for additional Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on Monday.

To start, Southwest will accelerate the retirement of the legacy Boeing 737-700 aircraft, and replace it with 100 next-generation 737 MAX 7 planes. The carrier is slated to become the launch carrier for the MAX 7 variant of Boeing's beleaguered jet, with the first 30 scheduled to be delivered in 2022.

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Monday's announcement also includes an additional 155 options for more MAX 7 or MAX 8 aircraft from 2022 to 2029, depending on demand and growth opportunities throughout the decade. The announcement gives Southwest a total of:

  • 349 MAX firm orders (200 MAX 7 and 149 MAX 8)
  • 270 MAX options for MAX 7 or MAX 8 aircraft for years 2021 through 2031

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement that "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."

Of the MAXes operated in the U.S., Southwest offers one of the more comfortable onboard experiences. American Airlines has crammed up to 172 seats in its densified MAX 8 jets, and many flyers complain about the tight coach configuration, with 30 inches of pitch.

On the other hand, Southwest fits 175 seats on its MAX 8 — but it's in an all-coach arrangement with 32 to 33 inches of pitch.

MAX is back: Southwest has no plans to rebrand the Boeing 737 MAX

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Southwest's confidence in the MAX is a big boost to Boeing, following the plane's nearly two-year grounding after two fatal crashes that took 346 lives. The crashes were largely blamed on faulty sensors and the flight-control management software.

To recertify the MAX, all jets must undergo a four-hour software update to the automated flight control system, dubbed the “MCAS” or maneuvering characteristics augmentation system. Additionally, all pilots must complete a two-hour simulator-based training exercise that runs through all types of emergencies, including a stall, runaway trim, go-around, incorrect angle-of-attack reading and more.

More: A pilot and mechanic explain what’s needed to bring the 737 MAX back

Southwest became the last U.S. carrier to restart flying the MAX on March 11, following American Airlines in December 2020, United Airlines in February 2021 and Alaska Airlines on March 1.

But Southwest's move doesn't just bolster confidence in the MAX. It's also a big win for Boeing — Southwest has historically had an all-Boeing fleet.

However, in recent months, the airline was reportedly in talks with Boeing's arch-rival, Airbus for possible 737 replacements, including the Airbus A220. Of course, those discussions could have been part of a broader effort to secure a better deal with Boeing. Whatever the case, Boeing ultimately won.

"We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world's largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet," Kelly's statement concluded.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023