Southwest Airlines’ inaugural flight from Colorado Springs to Denver is pushed away from Gate 9 at Colorado Springs Airport on Thursday. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)

Southwest Airlines’ inaugural flight from Colorado Springs to Denver is pushed away from Gate 9 at Colorado Springs Airport on Thursday. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)

Southwest Airlines on verge of deal for dozens of Boeing jets

The 737 Max planes usually sell for $100 million, but 50% discounts are often given on large orders.

By Kyle Arnold / The Dallas Morning News

Southwest Airlines is nearing a deal to order dozens of new Boeing 737 Max airplanes, a signal of confidence in the beleaguered aircraft manufacturer that could end more than a year of speculation about the Dallas-based airlines’ future fleet plans.

Reuters, citing anonymous sources, said the potential deal with Boeing is for an unspecified number of 737 Max 7 jets, the smaller variant of the Max. Southwest operates only 737 planes and flies the most Max jets of any major U.S. carrier.

A Southwest spokeswoman said the company does not comment on discussions.

“We’re marking 50 years as a single fleet airline and have shared consistently our hope to keep that simplicity,” spokeswoman Brandy King said. “We’ve also shared that we consistently evaluate the performance and availability of other fleet types that could potentially work within our strategy and business model.”

A Boeing spokesman also declined to comment.

Southwest leaders have said they are committed to reevaluating their fleet type after the grounding of the 737 Max two years ago following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Southwest is finally returning its Max 8 fleet to service, making it the last major U.S. carrier to do so.

Losing the Max fleet seriously constrained Southwest in 2019 and early 2020, causing thousands of cancellations and limiting its ability to grow while the rest of the airline industry was adding thousands of new flights to keep up with demand.

Southwest executives have publicly said they would consider Airbus A220 jets, but also admitted the airline had not started discussions with the France-based airplane manufacturer.

Southwest already has orders for nearly 250 more Boeing 737 Max 7 and Max 8 jets, which are about 15% more fuel-efficient than previous planes in the family and have engines that are quieter, too.

However, investigations into flawed flight control software blamed in the two crashes created serious doubts about Boeing’s commitment to safety, as well as the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate new planes.

The 737 Max jets usually sell for about $100 million, but Reuters reported that discounts of up to 50% are often given on larger orders.

Boeing has also been compensating Southwest for the loss of its 737 Max jets during 2019 and 2020. That compensation has included cash payments and discounts on upcoming orders.

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