Delays by Boeing in delivering 737 Max have led Brazilian discount airline Gol to significantly par back its fleet expansion plans through 2028, leaving it unable to fully capitalise on increasing demand for air travel.

“We are seeing the market be healthy at this point and we are not able to grow at the pace we had planned,” Gol chief executive Celso Ferrer says during the company’s investor day on 14 December. “We were counting on those planes to renew the fleet…This is constraining our growth.”

Last year, Gol, which only operates 737s, expected to have 53 737 Max in its fleet by now.


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Gol now expects to have 140 737s in its fleet in 2028, down from a previous estimate of 160

But quality and supply chain problems have kept Boeing from reaching its delivery goals, leaving Gol with just 39 737 Max at end-September.

The carrier’s total fleet stood at 136 aircraft – including 737 Max and 737NGs – when the month closed, and Gol’s capacity (in available seat kilometres) remains at only 89% of the pre-pandemic 2019 level.

Gol has now revised its multi-year fleet plan to reflect aircraft-delivery delays.

Its latest forecast, disclosed on 14 December, calls for the airline to have just 130 737s in 2025 and 140 (including 108 737 Max and 32 737NG) in 2028. That is 20 fewer aircraft in each year than Gol predicted in the forecast it released last year.

Gol holds outstanding orders for another 87 737 Max, including 57 Max 8s and 30 Max 10s, according to Cirium fleets data.

Boeing’s 737 programme has been beset in recent years with quality and supply chain problems. Most recently, in September, Boeing said hundreds of undelivered 737 Max might have mis-drilled holes in aft-pressure bulkheads supplied by Spirit AeroSystems. The issue has required Boeing to inspect hundreds of aircraft and prompted it to revise downward its 2023 aircraft-delivery expectations.

The delays have required Gol to lean more on its ageing 737NGs, keeping those jets flying longer and necessitating more maintenance for their CFM International CFM56 turbofan engines. But securing maintenance slots is no easy task due to “bottlenecks” in the engine-maintenance sector, Ferrer notes.

Challenges aside, executives say Gol is on the upswing, with sales up 18% year on year in the third quarter.

They also say Gol’s partnership with Avianca – a deal that involved both companies being acquired by a single holding company called Abra Group – is paying dividends. Gol chief strategy officer Mateus Pongeluppi calls the arrangement a “sales machine”, noting Gol is benefiting from Avianca’s strong international presence.

Gol’s revenue from all partnerships with other airlines, including through codeshare and interline agreements, is up roughly five times since 2019, Pongeluppi says.