That may be how it must feel in Renton. Boeing just announced that Southwest Airlines will be the MAX launch customer with an order for 150 (plus 150 options) of the planes. That is a firm order, and is the largest firm order in Boeing’s history. As if that was not enough, Southwest announced an order for 58 737NGs (it has 142 NGs on order) as well.
This is great news for Boeing – it now has the public support of its biggest 737 customer. Southwest has been agitating for months for a replacement for the 737 as we know it. Fuel costs have become a burden as the airline’s well bought fuel hedges ran out. It has seen its fuel costs rise to market rates and suddenly the pressure is on like it is at all other airlines. “Today’s environment demands that we become more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, and as the launch Customer of the Boeing 737 MAX, we have accomplished both,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and CEO. Southwest has the heft to push Boeing, though it was not the first airline to step up for the MAX. Southwest has, however, been a launch customer for four types of 737. The airline and Boeing are deeply entangled with each other.
With this Southwest order, MAX has orders and commitments for more than 900 planes from 13 customers, while the 737NG has won orders for more than 6,600 airplanes and Boeing has delivered more than 3,800.