WestJet plans to add 42 737 MAX 10 aircraft to its fleet, continuing its growth plans. The move comes on the heels of the company’s announcement over the summer that it planned to “pause further growth” of its 787 fleet and instead grow the single-aisle fleet. The order also comes with 22 options.
With this additional order, the WestJet Group will accept delivery of no fewer than 65 aircraft in the next six years, at least 50 will be 737-10 aircraft, furthering our commitment to affordable travel options for Canadians and jobs for our company and the aerospace industry.– WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech
This deal offsets a cancellation of 15 pending MAX deliveries from early 2021. Those were smaller MAX models. With the MAX 10 orders the carrier is betting big on a strong rebound in demand for its domestic, transborder, and sun destination services across the Americas.
“WestJet understands the value of the 737 MAX family, with the 737-10 set to perfectly complement the outstanding capability and flexibility already afforded by the 737-8, along with improved sustainability across its fleet,” said Stan Deal, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
It is a solid plan, and one the carrier is well poised to execute on, assuming the planes are delivered as expected. That assumption, however, comes with significant risks.
Over the summer Boeing made clear that it does not know when the MAX 10 (or MAX 7, for that matter) will receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. And that timing is further complicated by statutory requirements under the Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act.
When that became law in late 2020 it required updates to any new aircraft certifications issued. For the MAX that would mean changes to alerting functions on the flight deck, and introducing dissimilarities from the MAX 8 and MAX 9 (and MAX 7 if it beats the deadline).
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Boeing managed to negotiate a two year delay in enforcement, however, expecting that the FAA would sign off on its MAX 7 and MAX 10 variants before the end of this year. If either type misses the deadline it will require an act of Congress to grant Boeing another extension.
Or 750+ MAX 10 orders could disappear. Boeing CEO David Calhoun does not believe it is worth reengineering the plane to meet the new requirements.
This order gives Boeing a bit of additional leverage in those conversations with Congress. But WestJet could also shift to the MAX 9 if needed, albeit with fewer seats and slightly higher unit costs. Given the carrier’s route network, growth timing, and current fleet mix, shifting away from the MAX is a very unlikely option, even if the 737–10 doesn’t come through.
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