Southwest Looking at New Planes Besides the Boeing 737

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).

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. C’mon, @gary, you’re a savvy business guy. Why shouldn’t WN act like they’re exploring options, especially in light of the MAX issues? Even flirting with Airbus will result in renegotiated wins for WN from Boeing.

  2. Would like to hear from those who have flown the A220 (a Bombadier/Airbus product) compared to the 737MAX in terms of pax comfort.

  3. Who cares? WN is a cattle car. If you want a plush experience you need to fly AA.

  4. Southwest Airlines is 1 of many airlines that possibly offer “good paying affiliate programs.” Good thing to know is there’s millions in quiet $ gUaP $ to be made in “travel affiliate marketing.”

  5. Any supporting quote from the article – other than the headline above the pay wall?

  6. Makes all the sense in the world for Southwest to kick the tires on the A220. As mentioned, it puts some gentle (or not-so-gentle, depending on how you look at it) pressure Boeing in terms of 737 MAX grounding compensation and future orders. And then there’s the simple fact that maybe A220 operating economics and passenger experience are superior enough to justify it’s consideration (and possible purchase) straight up.

    The 737 is a 50-year old airliner design that has been refreshed many times but is approaching the end of its road.. The C-Series/A220, on the other hand, is a new-technology aircraft that is still young (and thus probably has many decades to go) in terms of its production lifecycle. Sooner or later, one way or another, Southwest needs to think about life after the 737.

  7. A220 would be a brilliant move for WN. Probably the best PAXEX in a narrowbody. Economics remain to be seen, but likely comparable with 737Max, A320NEO. And its correctly sized.
    And possibly most importantly it would allow WN to refocus on its roots: point-to-point in secondary markets with smaller runways, while blocking Moxy and the other A220 airline start-up (whose name eludes me at the moment)..

  8. A220 would be a genius move for WN.

    Probably best PAXEX in narrowbody category
    Likely great economics
    Gets WN back to their bread and butter: point-to-point secondary markets (and opens up dozens-possibly hundreds-of 5000’ runways…)
    Prevents Moxy and the other coming A220 start-up from getting any traction in those secondary markets…

  9. Why would WN look at that class of aircraft when it already has a whole fleet of 717s? They’d look really foolish embarking on that endeavor after paying DL to sublease them…

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