MIAMI – US-based Southwest Airlines (WN) is considering adding the Airbus A220 to its fleet, travel portal The Points Guy reported on October 23.

As stated in the portal, WN, “having flown the 737 nearly exclusively since 1971, may finally be ready to add a new aircraft type to its fleet,” adding that “the airline is evaluating its next small jet — one seating around 140 to 150 passengers — and both Airbus A220 and 737 MAX 7 are on the list.”

WN President and CEO Gary Kelly mentioned the options for renewing the fleet. “We absolutely do need the smaller airplane,” Kelly said during an earnings call on October 22, adding that “we [Southwest] have a ton of 737-700s that are coming up for retirement over the next several years.”

A220 US Production. Photo: Airbus

A Recovery in 2024

The options come at a time where airlines and plane makers are suffering the consequences of an economic slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Boeing, for one, has lost 757 orders for the 737 in 2020 alone, according to its orders and deliveries data through Sept. 30. The cancellations are likely a combination of the jet’s grounding and the COVID crisis,” the portal stated.

In addition to possible deals, per the portal, WN “anticipates a recovery in air travel over the next two to three years — or in the 2023 or 2024 timeframe,” emphasizing that “given the lead time for new planes from both Airbus and Boeing, the carrier needs to act soon to lock in mid-decade deliveries.”

WN is evaluating both the A220 and the MAX 7 for order placement in 2021, with deliveries starting in 2025. “At the end of September, Southwest had orders for 30 MAX 7s due by 2024, its latest fleet plan shows,” the portal said.

WN Boeing 737 MAX interior. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

The A220 and Boeing 737-700

WN’s operations chief Mike Van de Ven told The Points Guy that the A220 and the Boeing MAX 737-7 were “the two players in the marketplace” and that “we’ve been looking at both airplanes.”

According to The Points Guy, “the A220-300 can fly up to 160 passengers in a single-class layout just over 3,900 miles,” while the MAX 7 “can carry up to 172 flyers for 4,430 miles,” but it emphasized that the Airbus aircraft “has a maximum takeoff weight of 69.9 tons and the latter [MAX 7] 79 tons,” concluding that “a lighter-weight jet tends to be more efficient over multiple shorter flights than a heavier one.”

The portal attempted to contact both Airbus and Boeing for comments, but there was no response from the companies.

Featured image: A Southwest 737-700 arriving at Hobby Airport, one of the carrier’s largest hubs. Southwest Airlines is the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 737-700, with 384 in service at press time. (Credits: via Commons)