737-900ER sales pass 500; silk purse out of sow’s ear

Here is a story we did way back in May 2011.

Here is Boeing’s press release today.


41 Comments on “737-900ER sales pass 500; silk purse out of sow’s ear

  1. Interesting that they are touting the 737-900ER as a 757 replacement, especially with the claim that it can fly 96% of the 757 routes.

    What does that imply about performance of the 737-900 Max and the A321 NEO vis a vis being able to fly that last 4%?

  2. I think the story behind this revival is Delta and United each added 100 737-900ERs to Lionairs mysterious 737 pile, at undisclosed prices. A successful defense move by Boeing IMO against the dominant A321. That being said the 900ER seems to a very efficient domestic people mover and runway restriction hardly play a role on the bigger US airfields. They do on the many 757 flights to middle/south America though. AA has this covered.

    Small detail, apparently last year Boeing said the -900ERs would be able to replace 80% of all 757 flights. Now its 96%. Did 757 utilization change dramatically, did they change the calculation method?

  3. keesje, it is the way airlines use the B-757 today that has changed. TRANSCON and one stop TRANSCON can be flown by the B-737-900ER. The number of B-757 TATL missions are low. Neither the A-321, nor the B-739 can do TATL. About the only missions the B-739 and A-321 cannot replace the B-757 is TATL or ‘high hot’ airports. The B-737-900ER can do west coast to Hawaii.

  4. I don’t have any evidence to back up my theory but I suspect pricing is the main factor. The A320 family and the 737 have historically been neck and neck. However for reasons of relative size and performance, the 737-800 has enjoyed a slight edge over the A320 model while the A321 has had a similar edge over the 737-900(ER). These advantages are reflected in the proportions of each model sold. More 321s are sold as a percentage of the A320 family than the -900 as a percentage of the 737 family. The same is true of the 737-800 versus the A320 model.

    Recently those percentages have changed drastically. I assume the larger models cost very little more to build. So I suspect Boeing has a new policy of offering cheap upgrades instead of cash discounts, while Airbus doesn’t. Airbus presumably wants to maintain the price differential on its larger model. However if customers mostly go for the smaller model anyway, Airbus won’t increase their revenue overall. Also customers may go straight to Boeing if they know they can get a bigger plane cheaper.

    • Googling list prices gives the following:

      A320 $88m A321 $104m
      737-800 $89m 737-900ER $95m

      The A321 versus A320 differential is much bigger than the 737-900ER versus 737-800, even at list. After discounts I am guessing you can get a 737-900ER for little more than an A320 or 737-800.

    • If there was a problem or safety concern of the runway performance for the B-737-900ER it would not have been certified and airlines would not be ordering it. Each and every airplane, including the B-739 and A-321 need to demonstrate it can safely fly off the runway available after completely loosing all thrust in an engine after V2 and before Vr.

      • Safety ?!

        Payload-Range from temp/height/runway lenght restricted airfields is on the table.


        Not an issue in Europe/ US and short / light flights.

        I think the A321 NEo has some upward potential regarding take-off performance (PW & GE indicated more thrust is doable, speeding up acceleration) and the sharklets will improve lift for the same MTOW.

        On the 737-9 I have no idea, adding to much thrust to the LEAPs might turn them into the screaming hot little suckers you want to avoid.

      • Runway length at Kristiansand Airport (Kjevik) is 2,035 m. A 737-900ER requires a runway length of 3,000 m for takeoff run at MTOW (sea level, ISA). An A321-200 requires for the same task a runway length of just 2,560 m. At a certain distance A321 is still at max PAX while B737 has to leave seats empty due to safety concerns.

        • So, what you are saying is the B-737-900ER needs only 440 m, or about 1400′ more runway at MTOW, at sea level? That is not a very big difference in runway performance.

          Your runway at KRS is about 6767′ long, and serves SK B-737CLASSICs and B-737NGs (SK doesn’t have any B-737-900ERs) routinely. DY serves KRS with the B-737-800, KL (Cityhopper) serves it with FK-70s and EMB-190s, and and WF flies there with its fleet of BBD-Dash-8s.

          Currently there is no A-321 or B-737-900ERs service to KRS. The current service by B-737-600s require about 1700m and the B-737-700 needs 1600 m at MTOW, the B-737-800 cannot depart at MTOW because it needs 2400 m of runway. But in contrast, the A-319, nor the A-320 can operate at KRS at MTOW, the A-319 needs about 2165 m and the A-320 needs 2100 m.

          So what is your point?

      • If you persist to express it this way:
        At MTOW or insignificant derates there are a lot of runways legally available for the A321 that are not available for operating the 737-900 from.

    • That’s not the point since every airport flown to from KRS is reached by the aircraft scheduled to fly that mission, with the payload the airlines want, it makes no difference. I mentioned the B-736 and B-73G because SK flies them there and they both can operate there at MTOW if needed to. Since no one regularly flies the matching A-318 there, I didn’t mention it. I brought up the the A-319 and A-320 because they are on order by SK, and the possibility exsists they could be used on missions into and out of KRS, but they cannot operate at MTOW, and neither can the B-738 (which also flies there).

      • Let me pierce your denseness.
        Taking your data you loose either 4% or 18% of MTOW to fit the runway requirements.
        Now the -900ER seems to need 3000m runway
        That should cost ~1/3 of MTOW ?
        A320 2040m no derate
        A221 2560m 1/6 derate

        • Well, thank you for showing me the light…………………. Even though every mission flown out of this very small airport in Norway seems to be adaquetly accomplished with current, and future equipment.

          I doubt very much new non-stop service from KRS to DFW, HNL, or SYD is planned anytime soon.

          The Kristiansand urban area only has a population of about 65,000 people. It is a ‘tourist area’ for people from Germany, Denmarck, Sweden, and a few other EU countries. They come to visit the beaches and the ‘warm waters’ of the Skagerrak Straits.

  5. When discussing B 757 replacements it is pointless to compare B 737-600 with A 319. The videos above demonstrate take off performance of B 737-900ER (emergency exits over the wings are visible at about 1:30) compared to an A 321. — Under standard conditions a 737-900ER can litt 160,000 lb from that runway. An A 321-200 can lift 190,000 lb. According to OEW 737 is 8,500 lb lighter. Are 20,000 lbs more or less a point?

  6. When will Southwest convert to the -900ER? They could add some seats and go back to a 32″ pitch which would make me happy.

    • 737-900ER might not work at Midway. ATA used to fly 757-300 out of there. Which has better field performance?

  7. The Kristiansand urban area only has a population of about 65,000 people. It is a ‘tourist area’ for people from Germany, Denmarck, Sweden, and a few othe. They come to visit the beaches and the ‘warm waters’ of the Skagerrak Straits.

    Trust me the waters at Kristiansand & it’s surrounding areas are anything but warm, at the very least their best described as bracing, & that’s even on a good summer.

    Something else lost in the detail.

    • Kristiansand is a ferry harbor ( to Danmark ), central to offshore construction and service activity in the region.
      The airport has ~1m/a pax movements, 50% are business travelers.
      Kristiansand is not a sleepy maritime tourist trap. Even when I was a young boy and nobody thought about oil there, tourism was just a sideline.

  8. Norway has a high welfare level (oil), the A321 and 737-900ER in the video are the typical seasonal leisure flights to southern Europe (Turkey in this case).

  9. After I retired In 1989 and after the A321 had been launched in 1991, I urged
    Boeing in writing to stretch the the 737-400 once more, to match the A321 in
    However, it took Boeing 15 years before they launched the 737-900 competitor
    to the A321 in 2007, with an order for 200 units, from a start-up Airline, Lion Air
    in Indonesia, which has ordered many more hundreds since!
    It speaks for the popularity and quality of the 737, that in spite of an apparent
    lack of confidence at Boeing Management level in the 737 program during the
    15 years 1991 to 2007, it took a start-up airline in “the third world,” to do so,
    with the mega order from Lion Air, for 100 737-900s!

  10. If B had kept the 757 and done a neo with it in 2004 I wonder how sales would have been today, in a pure long and thin role, no 739 or A321 role. Add 500nm to the 4100nm range and shave off 15-20% on SFC, it would be a hard target to beat with a 788 on shorter routes.

    Its a unique plane in a niche that will never really get a competitor.

    A NEO/NG on the A321 could come close if that includes a bigger wing and bigger engines. A 777-X makeover sort of. It is absurd that 788 will be the smallest airframe above the 737/A320 niche in the future. The A321 has about 10t to grow up to 752. I am sure it could be done for less weight. Maybe when the A350 program is mature Airbus will have more resources to do something like this, as the have a huge gap between A321 and A350-800.

  11. The 757-200 @57.8t is 9+t/20% heavier than the nearly equal sized A321@48.5t.
    New engines wouldn’t improve on that difference either.
    Grandfathering, so very helpfull on the 737 ( makes it competitive ) doesn’t
    help the 757.
    IMHO the use of 757 on long routes is a “we have these frames, payd for, what now” second(ary) best usage pattern.

    • Typical UWE every post turns into A vs B. My post was about if they would have kept the 757 up to date, how big market could it have had today, with lower SFC and more range.

      Secondly I wrote that the A321 is the easiest 752 TATL replacement IF it gets more thrust and bigger wings, the current wings are too small even for its intended role. This was nothing A VS B, please keep it that way.

      • .. while others find offence wherever possible 😉
        The A321 happens to be the nearest comparable craft.

        To repeat: The 757 is much too heavy for its performance, better engines won’t make it competitive.
        As a 727 replacement it was designed for TransCon from shortish fields. Its secondary usage is imho a bandaid
        and not a market segment it dominates by economic performance.

  12. PS
    The response I received from Boeing, was that extending the 737-400
    body length could NOT be done, because of tail scraping upon rotation
    and landing, before the -900 suddenly appeared 15 years later, without
    any modifications to the structure/landing gear!

    • There is a new wing in between, isn’t there?
      some fuselage measures, numbers in feet:
      -500 Nose 13 ng 46 MLG 56 TailCone
      -800 Nose 13 ng 51 MLG 60 TC
      -900 Nose 13 ng 56 MLG 64 TC

  13. leehamnet :
    Boeing says, BTW, the 737-900ER is 30% less costly (or to put another way 30% more economical) than the 757.

    Expectable, the 757 was designed to best the 727 by ~33%.. Things move forward. over time.

    • That is why I asked how a NG:ed 757 had done in the current market, we are comparing a 1982 aircraft with aircraft kept up to date. It could have grown its niche, adding range shaving off SFC, maybe even trimmed weight from it.

      You could make a decent 752 replacement from the A321, with GTF engines in the 40K thrust class and a bigger wing with more fuel capacity, it would need to go from the NEOs planned 2600nm range to at least 4100nm of the 752. To do this it wont stay at 48t. But it has room to grow IMO, 48t vs 110t of the 788. It would have to make TATL with 200 seats or other medium range routes with thin traffic, the 788 will not be ideal to start some routes, its just too much capacity.

      I guess its only me an keesje who talk about this and see a market, a market the 757 grew into. Sure a long and thin 752 is a lot worse on trans continental routes, but it will still give the A321 and 739er a run for the money at their upper range, the 757 takes no payload penalty like those two will do.

      The 757 is dead and EOL we all know that and there will never be a 100% replacement, however I still see a void between 739/A321 and the 788 in the future, range and capacity dont even come close. The A332 and all 767s will leave the market, both OEMs will have this void that includes a fair number of aircraft in service currently. The 788 is good but it wasnt really a shorthaul aircraft to start with. It is very light but still 100t+ OEW and 70K thrust engines. The NEO and MAX will still leave a big gap in range and capacity up to the 788, I leave the A332 and 767 out of it since they will go eol one day. Airbus has an even larger gap between the A321 and the A350-800.

      keesje had a good idea with a larger more capable A321. This could eat away at the 788 from below. A+B have the 230-400 seat well covered withoptimal frames, they even cover 400+, but they have no optimal frames between trans continental and 788. That is the way I see it. The 757 excells at hot and high and on routes that are a bit thin to make a WB economical. A321 and the 739er sometime take a big hit on MTOW on these routes, that is money wasted IMO. Maybe the next gen of NB will have a wider span in capacity and capability to correct this?

      EU-Africa, EU-Middle east, US-Africa, US-South America, there will always be some routes that are too thin to make a WB a good choice. 180-220 seats 5000nm range, if you could do this with a frame below 50t, most would see the waste of going in a 110t frame for the same route?!

      • The capability class you envsion seems to be a zone of principal inefficiency, too long/narrow for NB too short/wide for WB.
        tentative occupants 757-200 757-300 A310 767-200 767-300 A300.
        If you plot A320 fam deliveries over time you see near equality
        between 319 and 320 from 1997(50 each) to 2005 (145 each) then the balance shifts fast ( A319 today at 30/a
        The A321 had on average half the numbers of the 319 but continued rising beyond the cresting of the 319.
        quite a reduction after 2008 but again rising.
        This probably is not only capacity but also driven by range enhancements.

        To conclude: initially demand optimum was a 319.5 moving to
        a solid 320 in 2010 with an outlook to reach 320.5 in about 20 years.
        Airbus could have done the 319 first.
        An A320.5 could be a product but would clash with the 737-900.
        I would have to plot the 737 numbers but I don’t think they’r all that different.

  14. To have a sharp viod between NB and WB might not be ideal when fuel prices have trippled again. That would leave the choice of less frequency or a huge hike in ticket fares. To move 200-220 persons below 4500nm seems wastful to do it in a 788, no matter how good it is. IF you could do it in a frame 50% of the OEW of the 788.

    We already got numbers that showed the 788 being less efficient on short japanese routes compared to an old 757 with no pips or upgrades. The antique 757 even beat the 767 on some routes.

    Do you cut frequency and pack the WBs or do you raise the ticket fares? You will have to do something to counter the growing fuel cost.

    • Boeing waved around with their MidiBody around a lying oval crossection patent.
      (funny that. the crossection actually would have to be two circle segments and
      place the floor under compressive stress )
      The hitch imho is that a 1.5 aisle craft is impossible. with seating regulations as they are
      a single aisle has its optimum at 3+3 while a twin aisle should peak at 3+5+3.
      ( ignoring exessive crownspace or limited underfloor space )

      • Noone can predict the future, we can guess and have opinions, there are so many unknowns looking forward. The energy crisis might be closer than we think, we might endure an economical collapse as well. Things can change quickly, the status que might not last as everybody seems to hope or think. Just by looking at EU and US today I could not have guessed this just 10 years ago.

  15. I wonder if the extra exit doors will become optional on the -900 and 9. Now that Delta and United have large numbers on order that don’t need the door, they could save weight and cost.

  16. If all MAX orders are for the 8 and 9 I can see the NSA base model being a bit larger than the 737 basemodel, A+B are growing their NBs and that is because they will have more competition for the smaller sizes but none abover the 321+739 size class. Say that you can add more seats and keep fuel performance the same as todays 738 or even lower.

    Maybe the 2nd gen cfrp out of autoclave can work for the high numbered NB sector, it will reduce production time by a lot, making it possible to save more weight and have even greater strength. If you could make a 190 seat NB with the OEW at or below 738.

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