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Southwest is reportedly looking to acquire up to 30 Boeing 737 Max jets even though many travelers say they don't want to fly on the troubled plane

Business Insider logo Business Insider 11/10/2020 tpallini@businessinsider.com (Thomas Pallini)
a group of people sitting at a beach: Grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. belonging to Southwest Airlines. Reuters © Provided by Business Insider Grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. belonging to Southwest Airlines. Reuters
  • Southwest Airlines is in talks with Boeing to purchase more 737 Max aircraft, Bloomberg is reporting. 
  • The low-cost airline is reportedly looking at aircraft that have been built but not delivered due to order cancellations, known as "white tail" aircraft.
  • The ill-fated aircraft has been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Southwest Airlines is in talks with Boeing to acquire more 737 Max aircraft, Bloomberg is reporting. 

Up to 30 aircraft may soon be joining Southwest's fleet as the aircraft prepares for its return to the skies after a near 2-year grounding. Its return to the skies could be soon, as sources told Reuters on Monday that final approval for the 737 Max's ungrounding could come as early as November 18.

The aircraft Southwest is looking at are known as "white tails" as they were built but never delivered thanks to canceled orders by carriers in the wake of the aircraft's grounding and the coronavirus pandemic. 

Air Canada, for example, just canceled 10 orders, announced in its most recent earnings report, thanks to the pandemic. 

Southwest, the country's largest low-cost carrier, was an early adopter of the Boeing aircraft that was slated to continue the best-selling Boeing 737 family that first flew in the 1960s. The cost savings offered by the aircraft with minimal additional training for pilots made it a perfect fit for the airline, especially on its longer routes. 


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In 2019, however, the Max program came to a halt as aviation regulators around the world grounded the plane. Southwest, along with American Airlines and United Airlines in the US, was forced to ground the aircraft at its expense and warm-weather boneyards across the country quickly filled up with new arrivals. 

Over 50% of Americans said in a March 2019 poll by Business Insider that they would not want to fly on a 737 Max and airlines are expected to allow free changes for passengers booked on the aircraft in they're uncomfortable.

Southwest had publicly stated its desire for a smaller next-generation aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 Max 7, according to The Points Guy. The airline even hinted at the Airbus A220 as a potential addition to the fleet, which may have been a bargaining ploy to get Boeing to offer a better deal on the white-tailed Max aircraft. 

A recent earnings report revealed a $1.2 billion loss for the third-quarter but Southwest is expected to recover quicker than the big three international airlines thanks to its leisure-focused route network. October saw Southwest add 19 new routes across the country and announce an expansion to major airports in Chicago, Houston, Miami, uncharted territory for an airline that prefers the smaller airports in those cities.

Boeing had been working on a fix for the jet since its grounding and flew successful test flights with regulators in September. Airlines are expecting to fly it in the next few months, subject to final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and global aviation regulators. 

American Airlines has the aircraft in its schedule for as soon as December 29, according to Cirium data, flying between New York and Miami. Anticipating a strong customer reaction upon its return to service, the airline is planning tours of the aircraft where passengers can chat with pilots and maintenance staff.

A Southwest spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement: "We have nothing new to share regarding fleet plans. We've publicly shared that Southwest is working with Boeing to refresh our order book."

Boeing declined to comment. 

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