Irish-based aircraft lessor SMBC Aviation Capital has struck a deal with Boeing to secure another 14 new 737 MAX 8 jets, bringing its MAX portfolio to over 120, as the company gears up for a recovery in the air travel market.
Speaking with the media following the announcement, SMBC Aviation Capital CEO Peter Barrett said that the company saw now as a “good opportunity” to increase its portfolio of “young, fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly narrowbody aircraft”.
He noted that MAX’s fuel efficiency makes it the “kind of plane we think are going to be in demand as this recovery takes a firmer footing”.
Barrett also noted that despite the multiple PR problems surrounding the MAX, “there seems to be good acceptance for the aircraft with airlines and customers”.
The deal will see the lessor’s fleet of MAX jets rise to 121, as the two companies pick up their pace on deliveries.
In the first quarter of 2021, SMBC delivered 13 new 737 MAX 8 jets to its customers, 11 of which went to Southwest Airlines in the US, and the remaining two to Germany-based TUI travel group.
“SMBC has been actively managing its portfolio in a very dynamic market. With this new order for the fuel-efficient 737-8, the lessor is well positioned to help its customers capture domestic travel demand in several countries and regions,” said Ihssane Mounir, Boeing senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing.
“We are honored by SMBC’s trust in the 737 family, and we look forward to partnering with them to support airlines for the market recovery ahead.”
SMBC’s announcement follows a slew of other high-profile MAX orders, as airlines continue to back Boeing and its embattled jet following recertification.
In March, Southwest Airlines announced that it had agreed to purchase 100 new 737 MAX jets from Boeing, with options for an additional 155, in the largest MAX deal Boeing has secured since the global grounding order was lifted on the jet in November 2020.
It was followed by news that Alaska Airlines would again bolster its MAX order, now to a total of 104 aircraft.
The news comes days after rumours spurred that Boeing is ambitiously planning to ramp up its production output of the 737 MAX to 42 jets per month by Q3 2022.
The move is intended to mark the end of the planemaker’s battle on two fronts, following the COVID-19 pandemic and a years-long PR disaster following two fatal MAX crashes and manufacturing defects.
As it stands, Boeing is hoping to reach an output target of 31 MAX jets per month by March 2022, up from a currently unspecified but admittedly “low” current rate, according to Boeing.
The planemaker is currently working to clear a backlog of hundreds of undelivered 737 MAX jets that were delayed by the near two-year grounding of the jet as safety changes were introduced, and again halted in April due to electrical faults.
Earlier this month, Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration finally settled on a fix for said ongoing electrical faults, which were located in multiple areas of the MAX’s cockpit.
The electrical faults resulted in nearly a quarter of all MAX jets being grounded around the globe, as the FAA continued to probe Boeing on the extent of the issue before giving the planemaker the green light to complete repairs and return planes to the sky.
Reports suggest Boeing has already restarted deliveries on the MAX.