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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. >>


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