Since the beginning of 2020, aircraft manufacturers have suffered as many as 400 aircraft cancellations. Although the trend can completely be blamed on the ongoing pandemic, the grounding of B737 MAX is believed to be a driving factor. Out of all the cancellations, the 737 MAX alone accounts for 313 of them. Nevertheless, until the aircraft type’s complete grounding, Boeing had already delivered 387 aircraft of the variant.
Largest 737 MAX fleets
The 737 Max was meant to be the next big thing in the narrow-body aircraft market. The aircraft type was a result of Boeing’s attempt to compete with the fuel-efficient Airbus A320neos. Since its introduction in 2017, the aircraft has attracted various airlines across the globe. Prior to its grounding in early-2019, the 737 MAX had already received more than 4000 orders.
As of now, the airlines with the largest 737 MAX fleets are as follows:
- Southwest Airlines: The largest operator of the 737 MAX, Southwest has 34 planes of this type. It was also the customer with the most number of orders (280). Initially, the airline had expected to receive 41 more MAX aircraft in 2019, and a further 38 in 2020. Southwest will now take no more than 48 aircraft through the end of 2021.
- Air Canada: The Canadian flag carrier has 24 aircraft of the type in its fleet. It is still awaiting the delivery of 12 more. Recently the airline had reduced the number of orders from 61 to 50. There are speculations that the airline might be looking towards alternate aircraft types.
- American Airlines: American Airlines had a huge order of 100 737 MAXs. It had already received 24 of these prior to the type’s grounding.
- China Southern Airlines: The Chinese airline had a relatively small order of the aircraft type. It already possesses 24. The remaining order of 64 aircraft was suspended by the airline in August 2019. With a huge fleet of more than 800 aircraft, 737 MAX groundings haven’t caused a serious business problem for the carrier.
- Air China: Has 16 aircraft of the type. It was the first airline in the world to suspend 737 MAX operations following the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
- Other airlines: Lion Air (10), Hainan Airlines (11), SpiceJet (13), Norwegian Air Sweden (13), Turkish (12), United (14), WestJet (13) and flydubai (14).
The airlines which were heavily dependent on the B737 MAX have faced serious financial problems since its grounding. Many airlines were forced to cut routes and look towards alternate aircraft types. Moreover, airlines are spending huge sums of money on logistics and maintenance of the grounded fleet. Although Boeing is paying airlines various amounts in compensation, it is very unlikely that it will cover the money they could have earned if the MAX was operational.
Boeing has in the last week, performed a few test flights of the variant. It is believed that the new flight control software might fix the long-standing issue, and the aircraft might be able to resume service by the year-end. The ultimate decision rests with the Federal Aviation Administration for US re-certification.
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