Southwest converts orders to launch 737 Max 7

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Southwest Airlines has launched the Boeing 737 Max 7 by converting existing orders for 30 next generation 737s.

The first 737 Max 7 delivery to Southwest will begin in 2019, or two years after the operational debut of the Max 8. The order recalls Southwest's launch order for the 737-700 more than a decade ago.

The latest version of the 737 series includes CFM Leap-1B engines, advanced technology winglets and new avionics, helping to boost range by about 400nm (741km) with a 12% improvement in fuel efficiency, says Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly, who adds he is "thrilled" to be the launch customer of the type.

Southwest launched the 737-700 with a 137-seat, single-class lay-out, and is in the process of adding an extra row to raise the total to 143 seats. The 737 Max 7 is designed to carry the same number of passengers as its predecessor.

The converted orders for the Max 7 are on top of an order of 150 of the larger Max 8 aircraft, which Southwest placed in December 2011. Southwest also has 137 737NGs in its order book.

Boeing now has combined orders for 1,315 737 Max aircraft in its backlog.

The aircraft is nearing the firm configuration milestone by the middle of this year.