Observers have been saying for some time that single aisle aircraft buyers like to order the smallest model and then when the time comes, convert the initial order to a larger variant. We asked Boeing about this and they declined to provide us with any data on conversions.
Taking a look at orders and deliveries from 2000 through 2014, we created the following chart. We color coded the NG (solid) and MAX (pattern) models so readers can follow the sizes. Of course orders and deliveries don’t track year to year. That said, we can see what airlines and lessors are ordering and what gets delivered.
There is a sharp decline in both orders and deliveries for the smaller 737s, with some time-lag. Of the smaller models the -700 (and 7MAX) are the most important to watch. 700NG annual orders for this period peaked in 2005 at 125 compared to 414 800NGs ordered that year.
Since 2011 Boeing has seen a sharp rise in interest for the MAX. It looks like initial interest in the 9MAX slowed a lot. Orders from 2011 through 2014 were 338, 75 and then 5. The availability of the 8MAX200 probably crimps 9MAX interest further. In terms of deliveries, the -900 has a reasonable share of deliveries, but with the 9MAX it does not looking like this will remain. Perhaps some of the orders for 900NGs and 9MAXs are moving to the 800NG or 8MAX?
The charts suggest that there is conversion going on. Either customers are right or up-sizing on their own or Boeing is able to move customers to optimal sized aircraft. The drop off in deliveries of 737s with less than 130 seats is remarkable. Orders for this sized 737 are dwarfed by interest in larger variants. The Renton plant seems to be moving towards about 90% deliveries of the 800NG and 8MAX.