Last Thursday Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly express confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX and said they had no plans to alter their order for new jets.
Southwest has more 737 MAX aircraft on order than any other airline and has ordered 737s ever since airline co-founder Rollin King and President Lamar Muse were looking for planes before the carrier even took its first flight.
A commitment to the 737 MAX is at least how Kelly’s remarks were broadly reported, when he actually hedged a bit more. He actually said that “at this point in time” they aren’t planning to make a change — not that they won’t — and that they’ll “have to constantly evaluate what’s available in the marketplace.” Southwest Airlines has been a Boeing customer since the airline launched and so “chances are we’ll continue to be a Boeing customer.” He did not say they’d exclusively be a Boeing customer.
Now we learn that members of their team have been off in Europe evaluating the Airbus A220 (formerly Bombardier C-Series).
SCOOP: Since the 737 Max was grounded, representatives of Southwest Airlines paid a visit to a European A220 operator to kick proverbial tires on the aircraft and hear about the carrier’s experience with the new jet. https://t.co/PerTwxZTr5 (via @theaircurrent) https://t.co/fiU3iPUu4r
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) April 23, 2019
Are they seriously considering another aircraft type, let alone one from a different manufacturer? Are they just keeping abreast of what’s current in the industry? Or were they hoping this would leak in order to signal to Boeing that they’re going to have to aggressively ‘make good’ the grounding of the MAX.
Swiss International Air Lines, Copyright: prestonia / 123RF Stock Photo
How much blame Boeing ultimately is pegged with plays into their liability for incidents and to MAX operators for the grounding, but needing to leave things on good terms and not blow their airline relationships in order to secure future orders matters a great deal, too.