WestJet could face costly delivery delays due to a blown-out Boeing plane panel

WestJet is facing indefinite delays in deliveries of dozens of new planes after a panel explosion on a Boeing 737 Max plane last month halted production expansion at the US planemaker.

The Calgary-based carrier has purchased 42 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft in 2022, with an option for 22 more — in addition to nearly two dozen previous Max orders still in the pipeline.

The multibillion-dollar deals were scheduled to boost WestJet’s fleet by at least 65 aircraft – 50 of them for a maximum of 10 – by 2029 in a move the airline described as a “game-changer” that would reduce fuel costs and… Supports its growth.

However, the Max 10 has yet to receive final certification, and after the commission incident, US regulators said they would halt production expansion at Boeing until a full investigation is completed – a process that could take more than a year.

The US Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded all 737 Max 9 planes for inspection and launched an investigation after a panel known as a door seal separated from the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines plane in flight on January 5, leaving a refrigerator-sized hole in the cabin wall and prompting an emergency landing.

WestJet said it can handle production disruptions.

“We continue to work closely with Boeing on all aspects of aircraft delivery and schedules. We believe our order book and fleet planning have the built-in flexibility to support WestJet’s growth plans,” spokeswoman Madison Krueger said in an email.

The MAX 10 is the largest aircraft in the latest 737 family, and delivers 20 percent lower carbon emissions per passenger than the previous generation. Fleet renewal is essential to ensure efficiency, reduce costs – jet fuel and labor are two of the largest expenses airlines have – and demonstrate commitment to green goals.

“WestJet’s ability to do that is being compromised by Boeing,” said John Graddick, who studies aviation management at McGill University.

“The older a fleet gets, the more expensive and less efficient it becomes,” he said.

“If this aircraft won’t see the light of day for years — if ever — because of what’s happening, WestJet’s fleet renewal plans will be in jeopardy.”

The 65 new planes ordered by WestJet make up nearly 40 percent of its current fleet, according to Airfleets.net. Many of them will likely replace some of the 88 previous-generation 737s over time.

The total list price for the 42 Max 10s ordered in 2022 was $7.6 billion, though large purchases typically come with deep discounts.

At the time, both Boeing and WestJet stressed the importance of the deal.

“The 737-10 will be a game-changer, with one of the lowest per-seat costs among mid-range aircraft. This will strengthen our low-cost position and affordability for Canadians,” said Stan Deal, who heads Boeing’s commercial airline division. In a statement in September 2022.

WestJet then said the planes would “strengthen the airline’s presence in Western Canada and support growth in intercontinental and leisure offerings” from Eastern Canada.

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