The model is simple: one aircraft and one aircraft only. But after 47 years, Southwest may finally be looking beyond the Boeing 737.
When Southwest Airlines began operations in June 1971, it chose the Boeing 737 for its fleet. For nearly five decades, the Dallas-based airline has yet to deviate. But two recent Boeing 737 MAX crashes have prompted Southwest to seriously explore a relationship with Airbus.
Jon Ostrower recently reported that Southwest visited an unnamed Airbus A220 operator in Europe. Although Southwest later confirmed that the trip had been planned in advance of the ET302 crash, the timing and meeting itself suggest a growing discontent over Boeing.
SCOOP: Since the 737 Max was grounded, representatives of Southwest Airlines paid a visit to a European A220 operator to kick proverbial tires on the aircraft and hear about the carrier’s experience with the new jet. https://t.co/PerTwxZTr5 (via @theaircurrent) https://t.co/fiU3iPUu4r
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) April 23, 2019
As Southwest continues to cancel flights while waiting for a 737 MAX software fix, CEO Gary Kelly addressed the issue in Dallas last week.
There is no reason at this point in time to declare that we’ll have a single aircraft type forever or not. Obviously, the situation with the Max is not anything that’s been happy for us. I’m not going to try to deny that.
He later told CNBC that although Southwest has no short-term plans to deviate from the 737, “That doesn’t mean we’ll be an all-737 carrier into perpetuity.” Earlier this week, he added Southwest has “a duty to look at anything new that develops.”
Although this suggests a willingness to change, Kelly also voiced his confidence in Boeing’s 737 MAX program.
Obviously, at this point in time, we don’t have any plans to change there. But like anyone, we’ll have to constantly evaluate what’s available in the marketplace. And we’ve been a Boeing customer all these years, and I think chances are we’ll continue to be a Boeing customer.
Note, though, he did not say “exclusively” Boeing customers.
On the one hand, it is hardly surprising that Southwest is looking beyond Boeing after its questionable handling of the 737 MAX issue. But on the other hand, I do wonder if this is all just a bluff to extract more concessions from Boeing rather than a true desire to diversify the fleet.
Do you think Southwest is bluffing?