On the Southwest Airlines earnings call they were asked about their fleet plans. Last year it was reported that the airline was kicking the tires on the Airbus A220 to meet their smaller jet needs and replace aging Boeing 737-700s. The airline’s board had even directed the airline to look at planes beyond Boeing.
That’s a huge departure for Southwest which began operating Boeing 737-200s and has largely maintained an all-Boeing fleet throughout its history with a few brief exceptions.
After 50 years committed to Boeing, the airline said that if there was ever a time to consider buying non-Boeing aircraft it would be now. They aren’t growth constrained. They have plenty of unused and underutilized aircraft in their fleet. And that gives them the space and time to transition to a new aircraft.
They acknowledge talking about the Boeing 737 MAX 7 in a way that leaves them as the lowest-cost narrowbody operator in the world. And they’re also looking at the Airbus A220 to do that. There are “efficiencies staying all-Boeing” but the “decision comes down to economics.”
They need a “145-150 seat airplane” but they “don’t have to make the decision until 2025” (though they clarified they need the planes to arrive starting 2025). They’ll replace Boeing 737-700s coming up for retirement over the next 5-10 years. And they don’t need “all 175 seaters.” Perhaps, they say, it’ll be “half and half” planes at that size and smaller aircraft.
The first big investor in Southwest wanted the airline to fly Boeing 707s with skylights so passengers could look up towards the heavens. That plan never came to pass. But Southwest could now buy something other than 737s – and even something other than Boeings.