LONDON – On May 17, it has been announced that China Southern Airlines, one of the largest carriers in China, has removed over 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from its future fleet plans.
The Significance of the Removal…
The announcement of the removal of a total of 103 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from its future fleet plans come from an investor briefing last week where China Southern Airlines’ Chairman, Ma Xu Lun had mentioned this.
Removals of the 737 MAX from its future fleet plans will mean that between now and 2024, only 78 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be delivered to China Southern, as opposed to the original figure of 181.
As part of this announcement, one of their investor relations representatives said that the MAX wasn’t included because of “uncertainty surrounding the delivery”, however, they are yet to provide any further details regarding this statement.
This will serve as yet another huge blow to Boeing’s 737 MAX woes, on top of what has already been arguably their worst 2-3 years in their history.
With the grounding of the 737 MAX due to the Lion Air Flight 610 crash on October 29, 2018, then Ethiopian Airlines’ Flight 302 crash on March 10, 2019, and more recently the Boeing 787 manufacturing defects and the Boeing 777X certification delays, it is all adding more and more pressure onto Boeing and the result of all of this is causing customer order cancellations for their aircraft, meaning most are switching to one of Boeing’s main competitors, Airbus.
Back in December 2021, China’s aviation authority, CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China), issued an airworthiness directive (AD) following an extensive test program for the 737 MAX’s reintroduction in China.
The AD mentions that once all hardware and software changes have been implemented onto the aircraft and once all pilots who are responsible for flying the 737 MAX have been trained on the updated systems, only then can the 737 MAX return to scheduled service within China.
On top of this, the latest COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions within Shanghai and other parts of China have also hampered the jet’s return to service.
Brian West, Boeing’s Chief Financial Officer has said the following regarding this:
“There was great progress with the local team, the Chinese customers, the Chinese regulators.”
“They were clicking along, checking all the boxes, and then COVID hit with different protocols and restrictions. We assume that when they can get back and focused on this, they will pick right up where we left off.”
The latest update from China Southern is a huge step backward for them following a previous announcement back in March that they had outlined plans to rapidly expand their 737 MAX fleet, stating that 39 were due in 2022 and will build towards a total of 103 deliveries through to 2024.
China Eastern Airlines, one of China’s other largest carriers had last week announced that it has released 10.5 billion Yuan to finance 38 aircraft between 2022 and 2024 from Boeing, Airbus, and Comac (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China), however, none of these 38 are said to be Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
It will be interesting to see if any of China’s other carriers will follow suit over these delivery delays from Boeing of their 737 MAX aircraft, and it will be also intriguing to see how Boeing will further respond to these changes in some of their largest customers’ plans for future fleet.
This will also mean that Boeing will have even more issues trying to shift the more than 300 737 MAX aircraft that they had built but never delivered due to the global grounding, limiting even more space at their manufacturing facilities in Paine Field, Boeing Field, and Renton near Seattle.