Southwest Airlines Co. reported Tuesday that it ordered 208 new Boeing 737 aircraft with a value of nearly $19 billion. Southwest now operates 565 Boeing 737s in its fleet. The order lends credence to Boeings forecast that over 39,500 new aircraft will be in operation over the next 20 years in the growing airline industry, creating the need for over 183,000 new pilots worldwide with 82,800 of these new pilots flying in the United States.
The order represents another major competitive achievement for Boeing as it includes 150 of the 737 Max, the revamped, more fuel-efficient version of Boeing’s best-selling plane.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has said publicly before that he considered buying planes from Airbus if Boeing couldn’t deliver a redesigned 737 before the end of the decade.
Southwest, which flies more U.S. passengers than any other carrier, will receive the first 737 Max in 2017.
Southwest has bought more 737s than any other airline. Before buying AirTran, Southwest only flew 737s. It has since inherited AirTran’s fleet of 717s.
American Airlines said earlier this year that it will order 260 planes from Airbus and 200 from Boeing, and take options to buy 465 more. But now that the carrier has filed for bankruptcy protection, the decision to go through with the order — valued at $38 billion — is up to a court.
Boeing says the 737 Max will be 10 to 12 percent more fuel efficient than the best single-aisle plane flown today. It will also have the lowest operating costs for a single-aisle model, the manufacturer said.
Boeing produces about one 737 every day in Renton, Washington. It is raising that to 42 per month in 2014.