Boeing shares were rising Tuesday as the outlook for the 737MAX firmed up.

DALLAS (TheStreet) -- Boeing(:BA) shares were rising today as the company announced the first firm order for its 737MAX jet and said it anticipates hundreds more orders over the next year.

"By the end of next year we could have 1,400 or 1,500 commitments for this airplane," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh during a media conference to discuss Southwest's(:LUV) plans to become the launch customer for the aircraft. Southwest is the first customer to place firm orders for Boeing's 737MAX jet.

Southwest's order for 208 aircraft, including 58 additional 737NGs, is the largest firm order in its history in dollar value -- nearly $19 billion at list price -- and number of airplanes, Boeing says.

Shortly before noon, Boeing shares were up 99 cents, to $71.81. Southwest shares were down two cents, at $8.41.

Boeing has more than 900 orders and commitments from 13 customers for the 737MAX, but Southwest is the first customer to place firm orders. Deliveries will begin in 2017.

Southwest operates a fleet of about 700 Boeing 737s, the world's largest Boeing fleet, and has been the launch customer for three 737 models. But the carrier's executives insisted Tuesday that they seriously considered the purchase of the Airbus A320neo.

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"We did do comparisons with the neo," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest executive vice president and chief operating officer. "Both airplanes deliver substantial improvements on the existing aircraft -- that decision was not made lightly." He said the MAX offered advantages in fleet commonality, economics, lighter weight and network fit.

One advantage was that the 737 MAX is better suited to the short runways at Chicago's Midway Airport, said Brian Hirshman, Southwest senior vice president for technical operations.

While the actual price of the aircraft ordered by Southwest was not disclosed, Van de Ven said the carrier will devote about $1.2 billion in capital expenditures annually to the acquisition of 350 aircraft between 2012 and 2022.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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