Boeing delivers its 8,000th 737, a 737-900ER to United Airlines

Boeing delivered its 8,000 737, a 737-900ER to United Airlines. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing delivered its 8,000 737, a 737-900ER to United Airlines. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing delivered its 8,000th 737 this week, a 737-900ER to United Airlines.

According to Boeing, the 737 is the first airplane to ever reach the 8,000 delivery milestone. The 737 program began in 1967, Bloomberg Businessweek reported today, and Lufthansa was the first customer, receiving a 737-100. United’s first model was the 737-200.

The next generation of the 737 — the 737 MAX — is scheduled to have its first delivery in 2017. Southwest is the launch customer for that plane. Boeing says it has 1,934 orders for the 737 MAX.

Boeing’s main competitor announced last month that it has delivered 6,000 airplanes in the A320 family, which competes with the 737.

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Southwest’s new 737 Max fleet will have slightly wider seat width, Bloomberg reports

Southwest seats on the 737 Max will be a little wider than today's standard, Bloomberg reported. Rendering: Boeing.

Southwest’s seats on the 737 Max will be a little wider than today’s Boeing standard, Bloomberg reported. Rendering: Boeing.

Southwest Airlines will install seats that are 17.8 inches across when it receives its first Boeing 737 MAX jets in 2017, a change that will give travelers about seven inches of extra seat width, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.  Current Southwest seats are about 17.2 inches wide.

Airbus has spent a lot of time in the past year chiding Boeing on the fact that Airbus narrowbody jets are slightly wider than similar Boeings. Airbus officials like to say that many of their planes can accommodate 18-inch seats, while most Boeings have 17 inch seats. This does not actually mean all Airbus seats are wider than Boeing seats. As I wrote here in September, some Airbus operators still use 17 inch seats on narrowbodies. That can have two benefits — one is that it allows airlines to use a standard economy seat on all of its airplanes. And two it means that the Airbuses can have wider aisles, which can help improve airplane turn times.

Southwest Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg that a little creativity helped lead to the extra elbow room.

“The seat technology has improved tremendously over the years,” Van de Ven told Bloomberg. “It’s allowing us to get the seats closer to the sides of the airplane by almost an inch, maybe a little bit more than that. You can then use that increased space in a little bit of additional seat width.”

When I met with Airbus officials last year, they told me of another way an airline might be creative with seats. It is theoretically possible, they said, for an airline to install window and middle seats that are 17 inches across. Then, with the extra space, the airline would have an extra wide aisle seat — one that it could sell for more money.

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Report: Delta seeks new Airbus and Boeing widebody jets

According to Aviation Week, Delta is in the market for more A330s, provide the plane has new, more efficient engines. Rendering: Airbus

According to Aviation Week, Delta is in the market for more A330s, but probably wants the plane to have new more efficient engines than today’s models.  Rendering: Airbus

Delta Air Lines is looking for a replacement airplane for its fleet of widebody Boeing 747s and Boeing 767s, Aviation Week’s Jens Flottau wrote this week.

“The carrier plans to look at four options,” Flottau wrote. “The Airbus A350-900 and -1000, all three models of the Boeing 787, the current versions of the A330 and a re-engined A330.”

What’s interesting is Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s comments about how the carrier does not want to buy airplanes that are not appropriate for the missions they fly. If, for example, Delta wants an airplane to fly the relatively short distance from Atlanta to Europe, it doesn’t need a Boeing 777 with a range of 7,000 or more nautical miles.

“Aircraft that underfly their range are uneconomical,” Aviation Week quotes Anderson as saying. “You cannot make a 777 consistently profitable flying only East Coast to Europe. That would be routes 1,000 or 2,000 naut. mi. shorter than what it was designed for.”

As many readers know, Delta has recently taken a more cautious approach toward buying new airplanes than competitors American and United, which have been aggressive in being the next wave of jetliners, like the Airbus 350 and Boeing 787. Instead, Delta has been buying up both used aircraft, like the 717s it acquired from Southwest, and new versions of older planes, like the A330 with older technology engines.

Which jets would you like to see Delta buy?

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Which airplane seat looks most comfortable to you?


Airbus brought a mock-up of an A320 interior to an Anaheim, Calif. trade show last week. Photo by staff photographer Stephen Carr.

I mentioned in a post last week that Airbus’s A320 airplanes are 7 inches wider than the comparable Boeing 737. That means Airbus customers can install seats that are 1-inch wider than on Boeing 737s. Not all airlines actually put in wider seats, for reasons I detailed last week, but at least they have the option.

Airbus is darn proud of this fact. So proud that they brought a mock-up of an A320 to a trade show last week in Anaheim. The seats above may look the same, but Airbus is actually trying to show why its setup is better. On the right, in orange, are 18-inch wide Airbus seats. On the left, in brown, are 17-inch Boeing seats.

Which one looks more comfortable to you?

Also, note the flooring. Apparently that’s an option for carriers, though I have never actually seen it in the air. In Airbus lingo it’s call “non-textile floor.” Have you ever seen it?

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Many Airbus planes are wider than Boeings. So why don’t passengers always get roomier seats?

Here’s a fun fact for the day. According to Airbus officials, the cabin of the narrow-body A320 airplane is roughly seven inches wider than on the Boeing 737 – the airplane with which it competes.

Airbus officials made a big deal of this at this week’s APEXIFSA Expo in Anaheim – a trade show dedicated to improving the passenger experience for travelers. They say that the wider interior means airlines can install 18-inch wide seats, instead of the standard 17-inch ones. Or, they noted, an airline might put in two 17-inch seats in a row and then one 20-inch seat. Why might they do that? Because they could sell the extra wide seat for a higher price.

But here’s something that’s interesting. An Airbus official told me that many airlines still put in standard airline seats in the A320s, which means they don’t take advantage of the extra room. There seem to be two reasons. The first is efficiency. Airlines like to have the same seats for their entire fleet. So if they have Boeings and Airbuses, they may just prefer to have all 17-inch wide seats.

The second reason is less intuitive. A lot of the all-Airbus narrow-body fleets belong to low-cost carriers. Many of those airlines place a premium on having their airplanes on the ground for as little time as possible. For those airlines, an extra-wide aisle is very important. With an extra-wide aisle, passengers can take some time to put bags in overhead bins, while still allowing other passengers to walk behind them. This means planes can board faster.

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