Canada's WestJet considers new 737 jet variant

Wed Jun 15, 2016 6:44pm EDT
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By Allison Lampert

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's WestJet Airlines (WJA.TO: Quote) said Wednesday it would consider a slightly larger version of Boeing Co's (BA.N: Quote) 737 MAX 7 jet with more seats, as the carrier prepares to take delivery of 65 narrowbodies from the planemaker through 2027.

"We're still working with Boeing on the 737 and the MAX program," WestJet Chief Financial Officer Harry Taylor said in an interview.

"If it (the option of a larger MAX 7) looks like that's a good alternative, or a better alternative, we'll take advantage of it for sure."

WestJet has looked at a larger possible variant of the MAX 7, the smallest plane in Boeing's revamped 737 line, which seats 126 passengers. It joins U.S. low cost carrier Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N: Quote) in expressing interest in a proposed MAX 7X, which according to an April report in the Wall Street Journal would have 150 seats.

Boeing declined to comment Wednesday on whether it would go forward with a larger 7X.

Boeing, in an effort to be more competitive against rival Airbus Group SE (AIR.PA: Quote), has considered revamping both its 7X, and in the longer run, its MAX 9 plane by equipping it with a larger engine. 

"We're talking to customers and ready to do these if they want it," a source familiar with Boeing's thinking said recently.

WestJet has ordered 65 of the 737 MAX planes from Boeing, including 25 of the smaller MAX 7 jets, with delivery starting in 2019. Deliveries of the remaining 40 orders of the larger 737 MAX 8 aircraft are to begin in 2017.   Continued...