Earlier this week, Boeing delivered its 377th 737 for the year – a 737-900ER for United Airlines – making 2012 a record delivery year. United Airlines was Boeing’s second 737 customer – after Lufthansa – placing a mammoth order (by 1965 standards) for 40 aircraft. When the 737s began going out to customers in 1968, it took Boeing almost eight years to deliver 377 aircraft.
Net year-to-date orders for the 737 Next Generation and the new MAX have totalled 1,031 aircraft. This is almost 200 more than the previous single year record of 846 orders set in 2007. As is typical for the airline industry, the ordering peak occurred just prior to the onset of a major dip in global passenger traffic, triggered by the global financial crisis.
2012 is the first time in the 737's history that it has logged more than 1,000 orders in a single year. The original 737-100, -200, -300 family took 17 years to run up that many orders.
The year has seen 737s ordered not only in record volume, but record order size. In February, Lion Air formally placed its order for 230 737 aircraft (201 737 MAX and 29 737 NGs), converting an MOU from late 2011 and setting the tone for the rest of the year. United Airlines ordered 150 737 MAXs, while Norwegian ordered 122 737 (100 MAX and 22 NGs). GOL and Aeromexico also both ordered 60 737s. Alaska Airlines went for 53 and Silk Air for 54.
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Leasing companies also got in on the act: Air Lease Corp ordered 75 737s, GECAS ordered 85, Avolon secured 25 and ALAFCO grabbed 20. All the leasing orders were announced at the Farnborough Air Show in Jul-2012.
See related article: Lessor run at Farnborough shows growing prominence of the sector
737 MAX cumulative orders – Dec-2011 to Nov-2012
The ordering trend in 2012 is a continuation of the heavy ordering seen at the end of 2011 and the pattern established by the A320neo over 2010 and 2011. 737 stalwart Southwest Airlines ordered 150 737 MAX during Dec-2011, becoming the launch customer for the new type.
The record orders from Airbus in 2011 and Boeing in 2012 are a reflection of the fact that Boeing was later to market with its re-enginged narrowbody. Airlines understandably were waiting for the manufacturers to make their moves and there were frenzies after each programme was launched as leading operators were keen to secure early delivery slots for the new more efficient aircraft.
The launch of the A320neo in late 2010 meant that 2011 became the year of the A320neo. Sales of the A320neo predictably slowed in 2012 as nearly all the early delivery slots had already been sold. And 2012 similarly became the year of the 737 MAX as the type was launched in late 2011.
See related video: Boeing playing catch up at Farnborough
Boeing now has over 900 737 MAX orders, but hopes to have 1000 by the end of the year. There are several major narrowbody campaigns that could be wound up be the end of 2012 or early 2013, including a potential Turkish Airlines order for 100 aircraft.
737 MAX vs A320 neo orders: months since first A320neo order
Between them, Airbus and Boeing have now collected orders for nearly 2400 of their updated narrowbody aircraft. They continue to win sales for their existing narrowbody aircraft, but these are slowly beginning to dry up.
Boeing’s 737 is entering its fifth iteration. Since the aircraft entered service, more than 7400 have been delivered and if Boeing has its way, the aircraft will probably see another 7400 deliveries.
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