China Southern Airlines, China’s largest carrier, has announced changes to its plans for 2024. The airline will no longer run the Boeing 737 Max in its fleet. 

This means that the Chinese carrier will no longer be receiving 39 Boeing 737 Max aircraft. 

More disappointing news for Boeing

It’s been somewhat tricky for the American aerospace manufacturer in recent weeks, with this latest news only adding to the headache. 

China Southern’s Chairman spoke to investors in a presentation last week. He said that the airline expects to receive 30 aircraft in 2022, 36 in 2023, and 12 in 2024 – these plans excluded the 737 Max

According to Bloomberg, this Monday saw China Southern remove more than 100 Max jets from its near-term fleet plans. It was also shared that an investor relations representative from the Chinese carrier said the previous Friday that the Max was not included because of “uncertainty surrounding the delivery”. 

A spokesperson at a later state said that:

“We communicate regularly with all our customers. Our delivery commitments and customer expectations have not changed.”

So the matter remains somewhat of a contentious one – have China Southern cancelled their 737 Max orders or merely temporarily removed them from its plans to serve as a wake-up call for Boeing?

Are safety issues causing China Southern to be cautious?

But there’s reason to believe that China Southern is concerned about the 737 Max because of safety issues. In December of last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) issued an airworthiness directive that the 737 Max can only return to flying in China when all hardware and software changes are applied and pilots are retrained accordingly. But the first month of this year saw China Southern complete a three-and-a-half-hour test flight with one of its 24 Max jets. If the test went well and satisfied Boeing, China Southern, and (most importantly) the CAAC, surely the 737 Max can be reintroduced in China, allowing China Southern to feel comfortable with accepting even more of the aircraft to its fleet?

Especially as the 737 Max has returned to service successfully across the globe, it seems unlikely that safety would be what is putting China Southern off.

What remains a slight positive for Boeing is that China Southern has a large fleet of 645 aircraft, 270 of which are Boeing-made. So Boeing makes up 40% of the fleet and remains China Southern’s biggest supplier in China (but still lags behind Airbus, which makes up 375 of China Southern’s fleet). 

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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