Sparking media questioning, Southwest Airlines recently sent some representatives to visit an unknown European Airbus A220 operator to check out some aircraft, however has since explained the trip.

Initially reported by The Air Current, which is run by Jon Ostrower, the news surfaces as airlines are caught in between a rock and a hard place with the Boeing 737 MAX, which remains grounded after two fatal crashes that killed 346 people (JT610 and ET302).

737 Max 8 with company

What shocked the industry was the fact that a long-term Boeing 737 customer that’s iconic in the aviation industry for setting up their entire business around the aircraft was reportedly checking out competing aircraft, that, from a passenger and technological standpoint, are far-superior.

Southwest Airlines operates 34 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which, paired with their existing fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, takes their entire fleet up to 754 aircraft.

Since the Federal Aviation Administration followed other worldwide regulators and announced it would also enforce a grounding, Southwest has had to send their 737 MAX aircraft to be temporarily wrapped up and stored.

Boeing 737Max 8, Southwest Airlines, Victorville - California
Southwest Airlines’ Grounded 737 MAX Fleet

Large amounts of flights have been cancelled, adjusted or placed on other aircraft to compensate for the loss of the 737 MAX, which Southwest has planned to be out of service until August.

Reflecting on the headline, Southwest Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer, Gary Kelly, noted the visit was purely coincidental as they had booked the viewing “a long time ago”.

Kelly stresses the airline has no intention to cancel any Boeing 737 MAX orders and he still believes the aircraft is the “best single-aisle airplane in the world”.

Adding to his statement, he mentioned just because the company is an all-Boeing operator, doesn’t mean it will be in the future. Just like all airlines, Southwest Airlines is interested to see what’s available and how it’s performing.

The next step for Southwest and other airlines after reintroducing the 737 MAX is to regain passenger confidence, which the industry is divided about. Will Boeing be able to relight the candle or are they left smoking in the dark?

Feature image by Tomás Del Coro