Exclusive: Boeing close to ordering dozens of 737 MAX jets

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing Co is close to a deal to sell dozens of its 737 MAX 7 jets to Southwest Airlines Co, potentially in the company’s largest 737 MAX order since the plane’s safety ban was lifted, the plane said. Wednesday people familiar with the matter. .

FILE PHOTO: A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft travels by taxi to the maintenance area after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, USA, March 13, 2019. REUTERS / Kamil Kraczynski

The proposed deal, which one of the sources said could involve 130 firm orders plus roughly 170 options, follows intense competition between the smallest member of Boeing’s MAX family and Airbus SE’s A220.

Another person warned that the number of firm orders may fall below triple digits, which would still be significant for the MAX given its high-profile issues.

US carrier Southwest said it does not comment on fleet decisions and has nothing to announce. Boeing declined to comment.

If confirmed, the deal would prevent a partial defection to Airbus by one of Boeing’s largest customers and provide much-needed support for Boeing following the nearly two-year grounding of the 737 MAX family, following accidents. fatalities in 2018 and 2019.

An order for 130 of the planes would be worth $ 13 billion at list prices, although such planes typically sell for less than half their official value of about $ 100 million at typical market discounts, according to sources. the aeronautical industry.

The possible deal with Southwest comes after Alaska Airlines agreed in December to buy 23 737 MAX 9 jets following an order from European low-cost carrier Ryanair for 75 of the narrow-body jets.

Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in November that the company wanted to make a decision soon on overhauling its old 143-seat 737-700 jets and was debating between the Boeing 737 MAX-7, which has yet to come out, and is certified, or the A220, which would mean a change to its fully Boeing fleet for the first time.

At a Washington Aero Club virtual luncheon on Wednesday, Kelly said Southwest was still in negotiations with Boeing and reiterated the advantages of having only one type of fleet, while acknowledging that the A220 is “a great plane.”

Any agreement is not intended to increase the overall size of Southwest’s fleet. It has parked dozens of planes while weathering the COVID-19 crisis.

March 10 marks the second anniversary of a MAX crash on Ethiopian Airlines, five months after a similar disaster on a Lion Air flight. In all, 346 people died.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Additional reporting from Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Edited by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis


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