European leisure specialist TUI Group is considering swapping some of its later Boeing 737 MAX 8 deliveries to the larger MAX 10 and, separately, is performing a series of Wi-Fi evaluations.

TUI Group currently operates a fleet of around 150 aircraft across its six airlines, including four Embraer 190s, eight Boeing 737-700s, 93 737-800s, five 737 MAX 8s, 14 757s, six 767s and 17 787s.

Speaking to ATW at the Farnborough Air Show, TUI Group board member for aviation David Burling said the fleet is being consolidated down to two main types, 737 MAXs and 787s.

Under the fleet revamp, all eight 737-700s will leave the fleet in the next year, while the 757s and 767s will be phased out in the early 2020s. Some of the 737-800s will go after that.

TUI Group currently has 52 MAX 8s and 20 MAX 10s on order, plus 48 options, but Burling said some of the MAX 8s may be swapped to MAX 10s.

“More than likely, the MAX 10s will go up because of supply constraints at airports like Gatwick, Dusseldorf and Amsterdam, where we are unlikely to get more slots, so we will need to use a bigger variant,” he said, adding that the first MAX 10 is scheduled to arrive in late 2020.

TUI Group is also trying to select the best onboard connectivity solution for its leisure-passenger audience. Options under consideration include full Wi-Fi, as well as “walled garden” onboard intranet.

“We have a number of trials going on at the moment. We are just working out the best configuration,” Burling said.

A decision is likely to be taken next year, spanning the entire fleet, but potentially excluding the aircraft slated for retirement.

“We have looked at it before, but we took the decision that the technology was not ready, and in both cases it was the right decision. Things are fast-changing, so we’re being very considered about whether it’s the right thing to do. It is more important to get it right and get the product right for our customers. These are not business customers, they are going on holiday,” he said.

The system would be used to share information about the hotel, destination, car hire and excursions, which would normally be presented at the in-resort charter holiday “welcome party.”

Despite the rise of LCCs, Burling believes that package holidays still have a role. TUI Group has 16 cruise ships and 325 hotels in its portfolio and the airlines play a vital role in supporting the business.

“We want to control our airline operations to satisfy the requirements of the hotels and cruise ships, because the airline is really important in that value chain,” he said.

That said, French leisure carrier Corsair remains available for sale, because Corsair’s six-aircraft operation is more focused on scheduled services than the group’s other airlines. Burling said the sale process is ongoing, with no specific timeline.

Victoria Moores