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Major Boeing customers hesitant on 737 MAX return to service

written by Hannah Dowling | November 20, 2020

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX, pictured at Las Vegas International (Tomás Del Coro/Wikicommons).

A number of Boeing’s major airline customers have flagged they likely won’t be making any new orders for the embattled 737 MAX until conditions improve, a major blow for the floundering US planemaker.

It comes just one day after the jet was officially recertified by the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the 20-month long grounding order was finally lifted.

Due to the global grounding of the planes, Boeing now has over 400 jets built and parked, as airlines continue to defer deliveries in light of the current pandemic.

On Thursday, a senior executive from European low-cost carrier and one of Europe’s largest Boeing customers Ryanair said it is currently not intending to place any new orders on the 737 MAX.

Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, said that “at the moment” the airline will only stand by “the order we have”.

However, Wilson did suggest that the airline might invest in new MAX jets should current market conditions bring down their cost.

“Over time one can see that there will be a way that aircraft are going to be cheaper … and we will capitalise on that at some stage,” he said.


Ryanair has recently said it expects to take delivery of its first 30 MAX jets by the European summer of 2021. While the US has lifted the grounding order on the plane, European regulators have not yet made the call.

Meanwhile, US carrier Southwest Airlines, known to be Boeing’s largest worldwide customer, made comments suggesting it might not need to take delivery of the new 737 MAX jets it has on order, and in fact is looking to reduce its fleet size.

“If demand is going to be persistently depressed, we can retire [our planes] and not need to take airplanes as replacements,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly told journalists.

It comes following previous comments from Southwest executives stating that the airline was attempting to negotiate a deal on additional orders with Boeing, while also seeking compensation for delays on its current order of 210 MAX aircraft.

Southwest has also already noted that it does not intend to immediately bring its 737 MAXs out of storage and perform the necessary tasks to return the planes to the sky. Instead, it said the process may be completed by the third or fourth quarter of 2021.

It’s a very different approach to some carriers, like American Airlines, that are ready to stand behind Boeing and the newly updated software and procedural protocols of 737 MAX. American has said it hopes to perform its first passenger service on the MAX by the end of December.

Despite the response of airlines, passengers appear to be far more wary of the plane that caused two fatal crashes, and killed 346 people across 2018 and 2019.

As such, American has introduced a policy that will allow passengers to make it known that they do not wish to fly on the MAX, and change their fleet free of charge.


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