Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) announced today the completion of its previously disclosed discussions with The Boeing Company (Boeing) regarding the restructuring of its delivery schedule for MAX aircraft. The Company has completed the multi-year evaluation of the successor aircraft to its Boeing 737-700 model, with the selection of the Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft. Southwest Airlines® and Boeing reached agreement on 100 firm orders for MAX 7 aircraft, with the first 30 scheduled to be delivered in 2022. This agreement underscores Southwest's commitment to continued modernization of its fleet with more fuel-efficient and climate-friendly aircraft. It also positions Southwest to capitalize on growth opportunities, when they arise.
As part of the agreement, the Company also converted 70 MAX 8 firm orders to MAX 7 firm orders and added 155 MAX options for MAX 7 or MAX 8 aircraft for years 2022 through 2029. These order book additions and revisions result in a new total of 349 MAX firm orders (200 MAX 7 and 149 MAX 8) and 270 MAX options for MAX 7 or MAX 8 aircraft for years 2021 through 2031. The Company's previous order book consisted of 249 MAX firm orders (30 MAX 7 and 219 MAX 8) and 115 MAX options for MAX 7 or MAX 8 aircraft for years 2021 through 2026. The Company continues to expect delivery of 28 MAX 8 aircraft in total this year (19 from Boeing and 9 from third-party lessors), as well as 17 737-700 retirements, ending 2021 with 69 MAX 8 aircraft and 729 total aircraft.
Today's announcement reinforces the Company's confidence in the 737 MAX as the future of the Southwest fleet. This cost-effective order book with Boeing allows the Company to maintain the operational efficiencies of an all-Boeing 737 fleet to support its low-cost, point-to-point route network. The Company was the launch Customer of the MAX 8 and is scheduled to be the launch Customer of the MAX 7 after also launching prior 737 generations, including the -300, -500, and -700 series.
"Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success. Today's commitment to the 737 MAX solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our Employees and Customers for years to come," said Gary Kelly, Southwest's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world's largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet."
"The MAX aircraft, with CFM International's LEAP-1B engines, enable exceptional operational efficiencies such as a 14 percent lower rate of fuel burn1 that reduces carbon emissions, quieter engines which benefit the communities we serve, and excellent dispatch reliability to support our on-time operations," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest's Chief Operating Officer. "In addition to supporting our efforts to operate sustainably and efficiently, the 737 MAX offers Employees and Customers travel comforts such as a quieter cabin, larger overhead bin spaces, seating with adjustable headrests, and more galley space for onboard service."
The Company expects more than half of the 737 MAX aircraft in its firm order book will replace a significant amount of its 462 737-700 aircraft over the next 10 to 15 years to support the modernization of its fleet, a key component of its environmental sustainability efforts. Southwest is proud of its fuel efficiency improvement of nearly 50 percent since 20002, and the billions of dollars in capital expenditures committed to the 737 MAX order book reinforces the airline's commitment to further improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
"We remain diligent in managing costs and capital spending, in particular in this environment. Our refreshed order book with Boeing allows Southwest to preserve the low-cost advantages of a single fleet type, and the balance of firm orders and options—along with flexibility with 737-700 retirement plans—allows the opportunity to manage our fleet needs over the next decade," said Tammy Romo, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. "We now estimate contractual aircraft capital spending for all years 2021 through 2026, which consists of 169 MAX firm orders with Boeing (135 MAX 7 and 34 MAX 8 aircraft), to be approximately $5.1 billion. Our estimated contractual aircraft capital spending remains immaterial in 2021, and is expected to be approximately $700 million in 20223. We continue to estimate 2021 capital expenditures to be no more than $500 million, driven primarily by technology, facilities, and operational investments."
The Company's flight schedules are currently published and available for sale through August 16, 2021. The Company remains cautious in this uncertain environment where travel demand remains depressed due to the negative financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; as such, available seat mile (ASMs, or capacity) plans have not been refined beyond May 2021. The Company will continue to plan for multiple fleet and capacity scenarios; however, the refreshed 737 MAX order book and predominantly owned 737-700 fleet is intended to provide a high degree of flexibility for the Company to manage fleet retirements, growth opportunities, and capital spending in a variety of economic environments. Additional information regarding the Company's delivery schedule is included in the accompanying table.
NEW 737 DELIVERY SCHEDULE
New 737 Delivery Schedule footnotes:
- The Company has flexibility to designate firm orders or options as MAX 7 or MAX 8, upon written advance notification as stated in the contract.
- The 9 additional MAX 8 aircraft shown above are leases to be acquired from various third parties. The Company also received 7 leased MAX 8 aircraft in fourth quarter 2020, for a total of 16 MAX 8 operating leased aircraft from third parties in 2020 and 2021, combined.
PREVIOUS 737 DELIVERY SCHEDULE
Previous 737 Delivery Schedule footnote:
- The 'Previous 737 Delivery Schedule' shown above is for reference and comparative purposes only. It should no longer be relied upon. See 'New 737 Delivery Schedule' for the Company's current aircraft order book.