In just 35 days, Southwest has quickly become the world’s largest Boeing 737 MAX operator.
With 15 examples already in service, the aircraft has already made it’s way around most of Southwest’s huge route network within the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The fleet is expanding quickly, with fleet-wide aircraft utilization at an all-time high after the retirement of every 737-300 in the fleet, and 737 MAX’s coming in almost daily to pickup the slack lost by the retirement of the old -300 variant.
Aeronautics has put together a timeline on all of the milestones reached in the first month of service:
August 29th, 2017: Southwest Airlines takes delivery of first 737 MAX
Early August 29th, the first of 170 examples of the type on order by the airline. The aircraft, registered N8710M, departed Boeing Field in Seattle at 10:57 a.m. local time as SWA8701, marking the beginning of a new, modern chapter in Southwest Airlines history. The flight landed at the airline’s headquarters at Dallas-Love Field Airport 3 hours and 19 minutes later at 4:16 p.m. local time. The delivery came right in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, which was decimating the airline’s other southern hub at Houston-Hobby Airport, so the first delivery came with little fanfare. A Southwest Airlines spokesperson told airwaysmag.com, “We are flying one of our 737 MAX aircraft to Dallas today for a brief visit. At the same time, the Southwest Team continues focusing on supporting our Customers and Employees impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and we will announce more 737 MAX delivery details later this week.”
October 1st, 2017: Southwest Airlines begins 737 MAX scheduled service
On October 1st, Southwest Airlines officially commenced scheduled 737 MAX service, with the inaugural flight being between Dallas-Love Field and Houston-Hobby, the first route the airline ever operated. In the month that passed since the first delivery on August 29th, the airline received 8 more 737 MAX examples, bringing their fleet of the new aircraft to eight. Among the routes operated on the first day of scheduled operations; WN2791 HOU-DAL, WN293 DAL-OAK, WN3115 OAK-BNA, WN3124 BNA-STL, WN4371 PHX-LAX, WN2838 LAX-SAT, WN3530 HOU-PHX, WN3437 DEN-PHX, WN4664 STL-SFO, WN4664 SFO-PDX, WN1751 PHX-MDW, WN4840 MDW-LAS, WN2561 DAL-MCO, WN2561 MCO-CMH, WN5802 DAL-DEN. Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly noted, “The MAX 8 is the future of the Southwest fleet, and we look forward to connecting Customers to the important moments in their lives through our legendary service delivered with this more fuel efficient aircraft designed to produce less noise in the communities we serve.”
October 19th, 2017: Southwest Airlines celebrates first “unmanned” 737 MAX flight
Southwest celebrated a major milestone on the 19th of October, with the first “unmanned” 737 MAX flight between San Francisco and St. Louis onboard flight WN4648. The “unmanned” flight was staffed with an all-female crew, including two pilots. According to an FAA study, only 6.7% of pilots are female, making the flight a special event for the airline. Southwest has been known for it’s advocacy of women in aviation, with the companies’ former President, Colleen C. Barrett, being the first female president of a major airline.
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) October 18, 2017
November 1st, 2017: Southwest celebrates one month of 737 MAX operations
After just one month, Southwest’s 737 MAX fleet has become the largest in the world at 15 examples, flying just about everywhere in the airlines’ route network. Five more examples are being tested at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington. American Airlines has joined Southwest as American MAX operators, currently operating five examples with 95 more on order. Both WestJet and Air Canada have received examples of their own in recent weeks, and Mexican flag carrier AeroMexico will usher in the type in March of 2018.
Featured photo by Gail Snyder.