Increasingly fewer Boeing 737 Classics are taking to the skies as airlines in the EU strive for enhanced efficiency and compliance with stricter noise regulations. Facilitating this are downward pressures on new-build prices as both Airbus and Boeing seek to procure greater market share. Moreover, an accepted reduction in the useful service life of single-aisle jetliners (from 35 to 20 years) questions their ongoing viability. While the European air transport industry itself continues to expand, the prospects for newly rated 737CL pilots remain undetermined. Indeed, carriers are already phasing out the once ubiquitous 737 Classic (-300/-400/-500 series), in favour of the benefits afforded by the more modern 737NG and Airbus A320 variants, with the latter taking notably higher ground.
Currently there are just over 1,560 737 Classics in operation, concentrated primarily in the emerging aviation markets of Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. However, this number continues to decline as a growing number of 737CLs are being scrapped citing economic constraints over their further service capability. In addition, ongoing fleet updates for European carriers including Lufthansa, SAS and Czech Airlines are doing away with their older 737 jetliners. While a portion of these (and others) are being re-registered elsewhere, roughly one in every five 737 Classics have been removed from operation since production was ceased in 2000, with the rate of removal increasing annually. Ensuing replacements show a strong demand for Airbus’s single aisle offerings, with current orders totalling 2,193 units for the region. By contrast, Boeing has secured a much fewer 1,338 orders for its 737NG aircraft from carriers in Europe and the CIS region.
‘The issues governing 737 Classics are twofold. Firstly, tightened noise restrictions at many major European airports such as LHR, CDG and BER mean that airlines operating older and noisier aircraft are being levied landing fees in excess of the base rate. The idea is to generate the incentive for carriers to use modernised aircraft, with discounts or exempt charges applicable for less noise disturbance. Secondly, newer generation jetliners afford greater efficiency with heightened payloads, less downtime as well as faster and higher cruise levels. This is pivotally important in an era of low-cost carriers, whereby maximised daily services and rapid turnarounds are the norm. For these reasons, 737 Classics are seeing a decline in popularity for the region,’ comments the CEO of AviationCV.com, Skaiste Knyzaite.
The reduced service numbers of 737 Classics coupled with an increasing preference for the Airbus A320 and its variants in Europe are rendering a shift in market dynamics. Although Boeing has historically dominated the market for short-medium range aircraft, the superior price competition as well as fuel and other operational efficiencies offered by Airbus may see a reversal in this trend. Indeed, orders standing for the upcoming A320neo have outpaced those of the 737 MAX by almost two to one, becoming the fastest selling commercial aircraft in history.
‘Without a doubt, there is little likelihood of Airbus superseding the market for short to medium range jets in Europe. The issue however, concerns newly rated 737CL pilots as openings in Europe are becoming ever scarcer. With more and more Western European airlines retiring their 737 Classic fleets, opportunities may be better sought elsewhere. Indeed, 737CLs continue to maintain their popularity with regional charter operators in Eastern Europe as well as with up and coming airlines further afield. Grasping these opportunities may prove elusive if a pilot is unfamiliar with the procedures involved with seeking work abroad. Fortunately, many flight crew leasing agencies like AviationCV operate without borders to bring together pilots and recruiting airlines by maximising their exposure and assisting with matters related to employee relocation. In addition, such agencies offer solutions in terms of contractual work for airlines, providing enhanced career prospects for 737CL pilots, amongst others,’ asserts AviationCV.com CEO, Skaiste Knyzaite.