Southwest Will Launch Boeing 737 MAX

DALLAS ( TheStreet) -- Southwest ( LUV) will become the launch customer for the new Boeing ( BA) 737 MAX, the companies said Tuesday.

The carrier became the first customer to place firm orders for the new aircraft, with the first delivery slated for 2017. The order is for 150 aircraft.

Boeing said the firm order is the largest in its history both in dollar value, nearly $19 billion at list prices, and in the number of airplanes.

Southwest, which operates the world's largest 737 fleet, has been the launch customer for three 737 models: the 300, 500 and 700.

"Southwest is a special Boeing customer and has been a true partner in the evolution of the 737," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh, in a prepared statement.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said, "Today's environment demands that we become more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly, and as the launch customer of the Boeing 737 MAX, we have accomplished both."

Boeing said the 737 MAX will reduce fuel burn and CO2 emissions by 10% to 12% over today's most fuel-efficient single-aisle airplane and will reduce operating costs by 7%.

With the Southwest order, Boeing has more than 900 orders and commitments from 13 customers for the 737 MAX.

Besides the MAX order, Southwest announced it would order 58 additional 737NGs, bringing its total firm orders with Boeing to 350 aircraft from 2012 through 2022. In general, the new planes will serve to replace aging aircraft in the fleet.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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