Southwest would consider new variant of Boeing 737 jet: COO Southwest Airlines Co would "absolutely" consider a new version of Boeing Co's 737 jet that the planemaker is said to be mulling, the budget airline's Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said on a conference call with media on Thursday.The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Boeing is considering whether to build a replacement of the smallest 737 MAX jet that could fly farther and fend off competition from Bombardier Inc's fledgling CSeries aircraft.Southwest only flies 737s from Boeing. As of March 31, it had on order 346 new planes to be delivered through 2027 and options to buy 191 more.Boeing is locked in a fierce battle for market share with Airbus Group SE, which has outsold it recently in narrowbody jets. However, both manufacturers are anxious to protect their jet market duopoly against newcomers like Canada's Bombardier, which looks poised to win a large order for the CSeries from Delta Air Lines Inc. Boeing has called the model under consideration the 737 MAX 7X. It would seat around 150 passengers rather than 126, according to the report.Chicago-based Boeing was not immediately available for comment. An industry source added weight to the media report, saying Boeing may have pitched this idea to Delta without winning a favorable response for the time being.According to the article, the new interim model would be a "shrink," or shorter-fuselage version of the 737 MAX 8. Analysts say such aircraft tend to be difficult to sell because they inherit part of the extra structural weight of the larger plane and are often considered inefficient. (This story corrects Boeing headquarters to Chicago in sixth paragraph) (Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York and Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by Tom Brown and Alan Crosby)
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