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Southwest Acknowledges Aircraft Deliveries Insufficient for 2023

Amid Shortages and Delays, SWA 737 NGs Will Take Up the Slack Until Their Replacements Arrive

Southwest Airlines has issued a warning over the coming ‘crop’ of aircraft from major manufacturers, notifying the industry that future deliveries of passenger aircraft are lagging behind the minimum required to provide consistent service. 

The news isn’t quite unforeseen after years of logistics issues and economic trouble throughout the economy, but mainline carriers acknowledging that they have a side of “aircraft-flavored” shortage to go with their existing pilot shortage is a new development. Both Southwest and American Airlines have said that Boeing and Airbus can’t deliver the needed jets to both companies, rebounding in a resurgent travel industry with a rosy outlook for future travel demand through 2023. SWA worries about the latter half of the year, however, noting that they expect to receive 66 new 737 Max jets this year, only half of the 114 aircraft stipulated in the Boeing contract. Thanks to their preexisting fleet, the airline will have its older 737 NGs soldier onward, to the chagrin of passengers accustomed to the newer, shinier Max. 

"We continue working with The Boeing Company to finalize our 2023 aircraft delivery plans,” said CEO Bob Jordan during the company’s 3rd quarter report. “However, we currently expect aircraft delivery delays to persist into 2024. Today, we extended our flight schedule through July 10, 2023, and we currently expect first quarter 2023 capacity to increase approximately 10 percent and second quarter 2023 capacity to increase approximately 14 percent, both year-over-year. 

“While we have not yet finalized capacity plans for second half 2023, and there is uncertainty around the timing of aircraft deliveries, we are building our 2023 capacity plan with a goal to have sufficient aircraft to operate our 2023 flight schedules, as originally published, in an effort to enhance operational reliability. We plan to allocate the vast majority of new 2023 capacity to network restoration and stronghold Southwest markets, which we consider to be lower-risk growth. We currently expect our route network to be approximately 90 percent restored by summer 2023, and fully restored by December 2023, compared with 2019 flight levels in pre-pandemic markets.



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