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MAX factor

The 737 MAX is the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing history and one year after the first commercial delivery, Keith Mwanalushi reports that operations are living up to expectations
 

 The first 737 MAX [8] was delivered to Malindo Air in May 2017 and is currently being rebranded as Batik Air Malaysia, a subsidiary of the Lion Air Group. Despite being side lined for several days prior to the delivery flight because of an engine quality issue, the first 737 MAX delivery took place, still weeks ahead of the original target date.

 

Through to April 2018 Boeing has delivered 110 MAX aircraft to 22 operators and orders have totalled 4,470 from 96 customers through to April 2018.

 

 “The 737 MAX is changing the economics of air travel,” Doug Alder, 737 Programme Spokesperson tells Low Cost & Regional Airline Business. He says the aircraft is 14% more fuel efficient than today’s 737-800NG and over 20% more fuel efficient than the first NGs delivered. “The improvements far exceed simply adding a new engine.” Alder explains that the efficiency of the aircraft is gained through improved aerodynamics. “We changed the winglet, improved the tail area and reduced drag across the fuselage. The advance technology winglet improves efficiency by almost 2% and the revised tail structure eliminates large vortex structures that increased drag.”

 

All 737 MAXs come configured with the Boeing Sky Interior cabin design and Boeing says there is more bin space that allows every passenger to have a place for carry-on luggage.

As with any new programme, Alder admits there were some teething problems during the early days of entry into service. “But with a full year under its belt, the MAX is performing exactly as we expected. Every day, the airplane is proving its reliability and the increased efficiencies we promised to our customers across the globe,” he says.

 

Responding to reports regarding problems with the CFM engines on initial deliveries, Alder says Boeing has been working closely with CFM to solve any issues and delivery commitments are currently on track.

 

Boeing designed the MAX family in order to offer extended range that would open up new destinations in the single-aisle market. And one operator maximising that capability is Norwegian with its transatlantic flights using the MAX.

 

“The 737 MAX makes travel more affordable and accessible to an entire new market of customers,” affirms Thomas Ramdahl, Chief Commercial Officer at Norwegian. “Our six 737 MAX aircraft operate transatlantic routes between smaller cities in Europe and the US east coast. A further 12 aircraft will be delivered this year to allow us to continue offering the most attractive transatlantic fares for passengers.”

 

Aside from consuming less fuel than the 737-800NG, Ramdahl says the lower operating cost of the MAX has allowed the airline to pass on cost savings translating to lower fares. “These aircraft also connect smaller cities with large catchment areas that are better suited to the size and capacity of the 737 MAX as opposed to a widebody aircraft. As such, we’re able to offer affordable fares to even more people.

 

“This new aircraft technology fits into our wider modern fuel efficient fleet plan. We have an order of more than 100 737 MAX aircraft that we will also use to both renew the 737-800 fleet and assess further possible long haul growth opportunities,” states Ramdahl.

 

SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines launched services with the MAX 8 in October last year. And considering that the inaugural flight was from Singapore to Hiroshima in Japan, the MAX range capability is clearly a key attribute.

 

As more MAXs arrive, Silk Air is deploying them on other longer routes in the network, including Cairns, Darwin, Kathmandu, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Foo Chai Woo, Silk Air’s CEO said the MAX 8 enabled the airline to offer its passengers access to new destinations and paved the way for a new phase of growth. 

 

Southwest Airlines is the first North American carrier to fly the MAX. The American LCC began revenue service with the MAX 8 in October 2017. Southwest [not surprisingly] actually placed the world’s first order for the 737 MAX 8 and served as Boeing’s launch customer for the aircraft.

 

What’s surprising however is that it was not the first airline to offer revenue service with the MAX 8 despite being the launch customer. The Southwest communications team explains the scenario: “We chose to retire our fleet of 737-300s prior to beginning service with the 737 MAX 8. Boeing and the FAA weren’t expected to determine the training requirements of operating the MAX 8 and remaining 737-300s until mid-2017, and we didn’t want to potentially impact our 2017 MAX launch.

 

We designed a cut-over plan to retire our 737-300s in 2017 prior to operating the MAX 8. We retired all remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft during September 2017 and, as mentioned, Southwest began scheduled service with the MAX 8 aircraft in October 2017.”

 

Southwest say they are very pleased with the performance of their MAX 8. The airline indicates that feedback from passengers and employees has been overwhelmingly positive. Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly has stated: "The MAX 8 is the future of the Southwest fleet and we look forward to connecting customers to the important moments in their lives through our legendary service delivered with this more fuel efficient aircraft designed to produce less noise in the communities we serve."

 

As of March 31 2018, Southwest had firm orders with Boeing for 236 737 MAX 8 aircraft and 30 737 MAX 7 aircraft. The increased high density range of the MAX allows the aircraft to fly longer distances in high air density altitudes. The MAX 8 can fly up to 500nm further than the 737-800.

 

Norwegian, since taking delivery of its first MAX last year, has deployed them to service longer transatlantic services and Ramdahl reports that the routes have been very well received by travellers on both sides of the Atlantic. “Due to strong demand, we have already increased frequency on some routes this summer, including introducing a double daily service from Dublin to New York which allows for day trips.”

 

Ramdahl mentions the increased flight schedule will continue into the winter as the MAX fleet service increases to New York from Edinburgh, Shannon and Dublin. “This 737 MAX has been a fantastic addition to our fleet and its technology has allowed us to connect smaller markets, a trend we see developing as other carriers are already beginning to follow in our footsteps,” Ramdahl notes.

 

Norwegian have successfully integrated the MAX into the fleet and the airline says it continues to service the transatlantic routes without any significant issues. “We have worked closely with Boeing on every detail of our aircraft to give us the operational performance and high quality comfort for our passengers. This includes the innovative sky interior with larger overhead bins, 30 inches of legroom and leather seats that recline up to three inches, which is ideal for transatlantic and long distance flights which passengers currently enjoy.”

 

The 737 MAX has approximately 80% spares parts commonality with the 737-800 which is good in terms of spares availability and MRO services. Ramdahl is confident that the MAX fleet will have adequate access to aftermarket services. Norwegian’s fleet will have Boeing GoldCare coverage through to 2034. “Our longstanding relationship with Boeing reflects the confidence we have in the pivotal services they provide. They are doing an exceptional job keeping our 737 MAX aircraft flying safely with optimum reliability and operational effectiveness,” he says.

 

In response, Alder from Boeing emphasises that MAX operators have diverse needs based on their individual operations. He says Boeing partners with operators to deliver optimised fleet solutions utilising Boeing’s OEM engineering expertise, fleet knowledge and extensive services capabilities and experience.

 

“Boeing can provide the full portfolio of everything a MAX operator needs to operate, excluding engines. This portfolio can be tailored to support all levels of service needs including pilot and flight operations efficiency, extensive training capabilities, comprehensive materials management, robust maintenance and engineering solutions,” Alder states.

 

Dubai-based flydubai is also taking delivery of it new MAXs from its first order in 2013 for 75 of those jets. Later, at the 2017 Dubai Airshow, the airline announced another order for 175 MAXs in the largest single-aisle jet order in Middle East history. The deal – which includes options for an additional 50 jets – is valued at up to $27 billion.

 

In April, flydubai launched its daily service to Kraków in Poland with the MAX 8, becoming the first UAE carrier to offer direct flights from Dubai. In addition, flydubai will deploy the new aircraft arrivals on a new route to Helsinki in Finland from October 2018. Interestingly, flydubai’s MAX 8 aircraft are fitted with flat beds in business class and enhanced economy class offering.

 

Jeyhun Efendi, Senior Vice President Commercial Operations at flydubai, said: “Helsinki is the 10th destination we announced this year as we open up destinations for passengers from across our network. We are confident that the high level of our service and the comfort of our new aircraft with a flat bed in business class will make flights between Dubai and Helsinki a popular choice for passengers.”

 

Also, in April 2018, Europe’s largest LCC Ryanair confirmed an order for an additional 25 737 MAX 8s, bringing its total order for the type to 135. Ryanair launched the high capacity 737 MAX 8 in late 2014 with an order for 100 aircraft, followed by an additional order for 10 at the 2017 Paris Air Show.

 

The aircraft will provide Ryanair with increased seating for 197 passengers while increasing revenue potential. The first delivery to Ryanair is scheduled for Spring 2019.

The Dublin-based carrier is the largest 737-800 operator in the world and the largest Boeing operator in Europe. Recently, Ryanair took delivery of its 500th 737-800NG and has now ordered more than 650 Boeing aircraft.

 

The MAX is also playing a key role in the leasing community. BOC Aviation Limited for instance just announced that it has delivered its first 737 MAX 8 to its newest customer, Corendon Airlines, based in Turkey.

 

“This delivery represents a number of significant milestones for us, with the aircraft being the first addition of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 to our fleet, the first Boeing 737 MAX 8 to be delivered into Turkey and our first delivery to Corendon Airlines,” said Steven Townend, Chief Commercial Officer (Europe, Americas, Africa), BOC Aviation.

 

 “To date we have taken delivery of 257 Boeing aircraft and with a further 83 Boeing 737 MAX family aircraft on order, we will continue to provide our airline customers with aircraft that are modern, fuel efficient and have a demonstrable record of fuel savings and performance improvements,” he added.

 

As things stand today, its looks like the MAX, is maximising revenue potential for narrowbody
operations.  


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