Boeing’s largest narrowbody will not begin arriving with customers until at least 2023. Originally anticipated to begin deliveries in 2020, this represents a three-year slip to the schedule. As well as this, its smallest narrowbody, the 737 MAX 7, which should have begun deliveries last year, will now begin arriving later in 2021. The planemaker revealed the timeline shuffle in its 10-K filing yesterday.
Delays to new narrowbody variants
Nobody can argue that 2020 was not a tricky year for Boeing. For most of the year, its bread-and-butter aircraft, the 737 MAX, remained grounded over safety concerns. Its best-selling widebody 787 Dreamliner was marred with production worries, while its forthcoming flagship 777X continued to experience delays.
Add to all this the decline of passenger demand and the subsequent swathe of order deferrals and cancelations brought about by COVID, and it’s a wonder the company made it through at all. But make it through it did, and now the planemaker is looking ahead to better times to come.
As part of its results filing, Boeing noted that the 777X was unlikely to be delivered before 2023. However, this week, further detail on the timeline for other new aircraft was revealed in its annual report, made public yesterday. This included the 737 MAX 10, the largest of the family, and its much smaller sibling, the 737 MAX 7.
In its 10-K filing, Boeing stated that,
“We now anticipate that the first 737 MAX 10 and 777X delivery will occur in 2023. This schedule reflects a number of factors, including an updated assessment of global certification requirements informed by continued discussions with regulators and resulting in a management decision to make modifications to the aircraft’s design.”
The delay to the 737 MAX 10 program was somewhat expected. Originally, the planemaker was anticipating deliveries to begin in 2020, so that timeline has slipped by a significant three years.
As for the 737 MAX 7, it was launched in August 2011 and should have delivered the first last year. Now, it says it will make its first delivery of the smallest narrowbody variant later in 2021.
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A long wait for Boeing’s customers
The arrival of the MAX 10 has been eagerly anticipated by many of Boeing’s loyal customers. The aircraft is set to be the biggest member of the family and aims to compete with the popular A321 from rival Airbus. It falls a little short of the performance of the Airbus model, however, with capacity for up to 230 passengers and a range of 3,300 NM. The A321LR, for comparison, delivers up to 244 passengers to 4,000 miles.
Nevertheless, the slight underperformance of the base model hasn’t stopped airlines from ordering the type. It’s the second best-selling MAX variant after the MAX 8, and has some top name airlines betting big on its capabilities.
United Airlines stands the biggest customer to date, with a request for 100 of the type to complement its 85 737 MAX 9s. VietJet is the next largest, with orders in for 80, while flydubai and Lion Air both placed orders for 50 of the model.
There has been talk of Ryanair eyeing an order of the type. While ordering more of the 737 MAX 200, CEO Michael O’Leary noted that he’d like to place a follow-on order for Boeing’s biggest variant. However, he also said that he fully expected a slip to the timeline, although his expectations were for a slide of around 12 – 18 months.
Whether a wait until 2023 is going to make the plane unattractive remains to be seen. By the time it arrives, Airbus will be nearing the debut of its A321XLR, which will knock it out of the park in terms of range. The XLR will bring more than 1,000 nautical miles more to the narrowbody party, something that may well turn a few Boeing customer’s heads.