Southwest Airlines Anticipates Boeing 737 MAX 7 Certification by April

Southwest Airlines anticipates that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will certify Boeing's 737 MAX 7 aircraft by April, enabling the airline to begin operating the aircraft in October and November 2024, according to a company executive. Southwest, based in Dallas, is the largest customer of the aircraft, the smallest model in Boeing's MAX family. 


The airline announced new orders for an additional 108 MAX 7 aircraft for deliveries through 2031 last month. Andrew Watterson, Southwest's chief operating officer, stated in an interview that the company expects the aircraft to be certified in April and to be operational by October or November. However, he noted that this estimate includes a buffer and that certification could still occur this year or early 2024 as Boeing continues to make progress with the FAA on certification issues. 

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Watterson stated that the company is getting closer to certification. Boeing has stated that it expects the MAX 7 to be certified by the end of this year. The MAX 7 is expected to provide Southwest with the flexibility to adjust capacity to meet demand, as passenger traffic tends to fluctuate depending on the time of day and day of the week. However, certification delays have led Southwest to convert numerous orders for the 150-seater MAX 7 aircraft into the larger 175-seater MAX 8 variant. 

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The FAA has consistently declined to comment on the timing of the MAX 7 certification, stating that "safety dictates the timeline of certification projects." The MAX aircraft were grounded globally following two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in 346 fatalities. Both the MAX 7 and the largest model, the MAX 10, are awaiting FAA certification, with the first delivery of the MAX 10 scheduled for 2024. These aircraft are considered crucial for Boeing to compete against Airbus for orders in the narrowbody markets. Some analysts and industry officials argue that operating a larger aircraft with more seats in a domestic market already saturated with excess capacity is detrimental to Southwest's profits. However, Watterson disagrees, stating that the airline has a good balance of large and small aircraft to match supply and demand.

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