While Boeing will “continue to defer” to civil aviation regulators in Southeast Asia for the recertification and return to service of the 737 Max, it remains optimistic about the narrowbody’s long-term demand.

In its Commercial Market Outlook for Southeast Asia, Boeing expects more than 3,500 new narrowbody aircraft – including the 737 Max – in the region by 2039, despite the upheavals caused by both the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the grounding of the aircraft in several parts of the world. 

Boeing 737 Max 8 house colours 1

Source: Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

Boeing remains optimistic about the 737 Max’s prospects in Southeast Asia

The 737 Max was grounded globally in 2019 following two fatal crashes, including one involving a 737 Max 8 operated by Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air. While several regulators, including the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, have formally cleared the aircraft to resume operations, their counterparts in Asia have yet to follow suit.

Boeing’s vice-president for commercial marketing Darren Hulst says the airframer is “continuing to work with global regulators and our customers to return 737 Max to service worldwide”.

“But one thing that we’ve seen, and been encouraged about, is the fact that the [aircraft] that have returned to service continue to deliver on the efficiency and on the reliability that we promised when we sold the aircraft,” says Hulst, at a virtual briefing.

Southeast Asia is home to several 737 Max operators, such as the Lion Air Group, as well as Singapore Airlines.

Asked by FlightGlobal if the uncertainty around recertification timelines would impact its market outlook for narrowbodies, Hulst says: “[The] demand in the region is different and it’s longer term than just the timing of return to service, or the recertification, of the aircraft.”

He adds: “I think the work that we’re doing with regulators… is based on their timing and their schedule. However, the fact that the 737 Max is demonstrating its performance in other jurisdictions… today means that this is something that is relatively short term. It’s not going to impact five- and 10-year demand for the 737.”

Boeing’s outlook for 2020-2039 estimates around 4,400 new aircraft – valued at $700 billion – to be delivered to Southeast Asia, making it the second largest market within the Asia-Pacific region.

The figure is a slight downward adjustment from Boeing’s 2019 projection of 4,500 deliveries – indicating its optimism of prospects in the region.

In the short term, Boeing expects 1,590 aircraft deliveries in Southeast Asia between 2020 and 2039, as the market recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, it anticipates demand to continue growing, with narrowbodies leading the charge.

“Single-aisle airplanes like the 737 family will continue to drive capacity growth in South-east Asia, where low-cost-carriers have the highest market penetration globally,” states Boeing.

As for freighters, Boeing expects 30 new freighter deliveries in the next 20 years, though it stressed that the figure does not account for converted freighters, which has seen increased demand amid the pandemic.

Boeing also anticipates the services market in Southeast Asia to be valued at around $790 billion, along with demand for about 183,000 aviation personnel, including pilots and technicians.