Boeing is close to finalizing a major new order for the 737 MAX from Southwest Airlines, a deal that would ensure its most important customer stays an all-Boeing carrier, according to a report by Reuters citing people familiar with the proposed deal.

The order could be for dozens of jets, up to nearly 100.

In October, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the airline was choosing between the new 737 MAX 7 and the Airbus A220 to replace its 143-seat 737-700 aircraft.

Southwest has about 470 of those smaller jets in its fleet, and any move to replace them with Airbus aircraft would have been a huge blow to Boeing.

If not for the almost two-year grounding of the MAX, Southwest probably wouldn’t even have considered the expensive proposition of adding a new airplane type to its current all-737 fleet.

But Boeing is close to staving off that scenario as it works to nail down the deal. And this order would likely be only the first installment, with follow-up orders later as Southwest phases out all the older model 737-700s in its fleet.

If finalized, the deal will be a major win for Boeing. It will help the MAX regain traction in the market and also signal that airlines with solid financials seeking to come through the pandemic are ready to buy.

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