Boeing 737 MAX is such a big deal in Hawaii. So when news started breaking that there was an issue with a “significant number” of the planes already delivered, plus those on order, we stood up and took immediate notice.
One thing seems clear; we may not know fully what this latest discovery means for the long-troubled but popular MAX fleet. At the very least, there will be a delay in deliveries of fleets destined to be flying to and from Hawaii.
As of the last hour, here’s where it stands.
Boeing halted deliveries of at least some of its 737 MAX jets for quality-related issues with specific components made by one of Boeing’s main vendors. Indeed, this plane has been under some of the most intense scrutiny ever since the two deadly crashes and the other production issues it had previously encountered.
It’s important to note that one variant, the 737 MAX 9 employs fittings made by other companies, and those are correctly installed.
This comes as the company had been trying to ramp up production of the planes from the current month’s plan of 31 to at least 42 by the year’s end.
According to Boeing, the problem relates to two fittings joining the aft fuselage. Produced by Spirit AeroSystems, these were not attached correctly to the fuselage before being sent to Boeing. It’s reported that the problems are related to less experienced workers and better inspections.
FAA: There isn’t an immediate safety issue.
The Federal Aviation Administration said thus far that it has “validated” the plane manufacturer’s assessment that there isn’t an immediate safety issue “based on the facts and data Boeing presented.” The agency said it would evaluate future aircraft deliveries.
The impacted planes are the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8, and 737 MAX 8200 planes.
A Wells Fargo aviation analyst said, “This issue relates to actual non-conforming parts, which will need to be inspected (at minimum) or reworked. This likely points to a longer pause this time.” — Matthew Akers, Wells Fargo.
Issues of fleet expansion plans at airlines flying to Hawaii.
Airlines that fly these planes include, most importantly, Southwest Airlines, as well as American Airlines. Southwest is counting on the MAX 7 variant for a significant role to, from, and within Hawaii.
Airlines Flying Boeing 737 MAX To Hawaii and which variants.
This comes as BOH editors had just started flying MAX planes more, and in fact, there were four flights that we had planned on them in the next few weeks.
Also, while we were trepidacious the first time we stepped onboard the MAX, we hadn’t given it much thought after that. The plane feels very nice from our experience of just a handful of flights.
The 737 MAX is a narrow-body plane from Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It’s the fourth generation of the 737, one of the world’s best-selling commercial jetliners. The MAX was introduced in 2017 and is an updated version of the 737, featuring new engines and improved aerodynamics. It feels quieter, more modern, and more comfortable than earlier 737s. However, who will ever forget that the MAX was grounded for nearly two years following two fatal crashes?
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX. 251 planes.
It’s been just over a month since Alaska ordered 52 more 737 MAX aircraft with rights for an additional 105, in their biggest aircraft order ever. The planes will arrive between 2024 and 2027. Ultimately, Alaska intends to have a fleet of 146 737 MAX planes, not including the rights for 105 more.
Alaska has only a small fleet of just 35 737 MAX 9 aircraft. The Alaska Boeing 737-9 MAX Series has 178 newly designed Recaro leather seats. They also outfit these with a redesigned business class seat (Alaska still calls them first class).
All of the Alaska Air 737 MAX planes are of the MAX 9 variant and are thus not impacted by this issue.
American Airlines 737 MAX. 130 planes.
To our knowledge, American has never used their 737 MAX for Hawaii service, although it’s hard to imagine that with a fleet of their size, they won’t make their way to the islands at some point. Instead, they fly the plane mainly in the southeast.
American uses the Airbus A321neo aircraft as its narrow-body solution for Hawaii flights, the same plane Hawaiian uses.
Earlier this year, American Airlines exercised options to purchase 30 more Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. It expects to receive 15 next year and 15 in 2024. American already has 42 MAX 737 in service. After that, American still has nearly 100 737 MAX on order.
We aren’t aware of American moving to any 737 MAX Hawaii flights to date. That being said, they fly Max 8 variants which are impacted.
Delta Airlines 737 MAX. 100 planes.
Delta just ordered 100 230-seat 737 MAX 10 aircraft with an option to add 30 more. Wow, whoever thought of a 737 having up to 230 seats?
Delta will take delivery starting in 2025, and these aircraft will unquestionably end up on Delta flights between the mainland and Hawaii.
Delta will be taking delivery of only the MAX 10 variant, which is not impacted.
Southwest Airlines 737 MAX. 600+ planes.
737 MAX-centric airline Southwest already has acquired 141 MAX 8 planes that it is flying. They still have orders pending for 215 MAX 8 and 192 MAX 7 planes. It also has 226 MAX options, bringing its total to more than 600 planes. Most of the confirmed orders will be delivered in the next few years. The MAX is Southwest’s primary Hawaii workhorse.
In 2011, Southwest became the launch customer for the plane when it placed firm orders for 150 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Southwest is the most exposed in this as they already have a large fleet of MAX 8 aircraft and have pending orders for more of the impacted planes of the MAX 7 and MAX 8 variants.
United Airlines 737 MAX. 443 planes.
This week, when United Airlines placed their big 100-aircraft Dreamliner order, they managed to throw in an order for an additional 100 737 MAX planes. It was a total order worth, at a list price of at least, $43 billion.
The airline is exercising 44 MAX options in the next three years, with 56 more coming in the following two years. United now has a total of 443 MAXs on order. These will be the primary Hawaii workhorse other than for select United wide-body flights.
United Airlines’ stable includes MAX 7 and MAX 8 planes and unaffected MAX 9 planes.
Hawaiian Airlines is the only non-MAX airline.
Hawaiian does not own, and to our knowledge, does not intend to own, any Boeing 737 MAX planes. The company relies on a fleet of relatively new Airbus A321neo planes for narrowbody flights between the mainland and Hawaii. It also has a fleet of decade-old Airbus A330-200 wide-body planes for more trafficked routes. They also await a fleet of 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners to augment their current aircraft.