Southwest Airlines takes Boeing Max 7 out of fleet plan for 2024

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Southwest Airlines ranked as the second-best domestic airline, according to Bounce’s 2023 Airline Index.

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Southwest Airlines has taken the Boeing 737 Max 7 out of its fleet plans as regulators haven’t yet certified the smallest model of the manufacturer’s bestselling plane.

Southwest became the latest of the major airlines this week to rethink its fleet plans because of certification delays at Boeing.

Earlier this week, United Airlines said it was removing the 737 Max 10, the largest model of the Max family, from its internal fleet plans after delays with certification.

Scrutiny on Boeing has mounted in recent weeks after a door panel blew out midflight from a 737 Max 9 that was operated by Alaska Airlines on Jan. 5, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to ground that model. The FAA on Wednesday cleared inspection instructions to allow the planes to return to service as early as this week.

Southwest said in a quarterly earnings and outlook report on Thursday that it expects to receive 79 aircraft this year and that it was removing the Max 7 from its plans “due to Boeing’s continued supply chain challenges and the current status of the -7 certification” down from a contracted 85 aircraft.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told CNBC earlier this week that even before the Alaska Airlines incident, the agency had concluded it needed a more “hands-on approach” with the certification of the Max 7 and Max 10 aircraft. He said the agency has no timelines for those aircraft certifications.

“As I prepared for this job and went through the nomination and confirmation and really did a deep dive into what happened with the Max originally, I think the message was extra vigilance,” said Whitaker, who is about three months into the FAA’s top job. “So we had already teed up greater visibility in our front office on what these certification programs are, just to have a better understanding of what’s coming. I think that higher level of vigilance is going to remain.”

The FAA late Wednesday said it will bar Boeing from planned production increases of the 737 Max, which could lead to delivery delays for airlines.

The company said in statement after the FAA’s announcement that it “will continue to cooperate fully and transparently with the FAA and follow their direction as we take action to strengthen safety and quality at Boeing.” 

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