Dallas based Southwest Airlines took delivery of its first 737 MAX8 aircraft on Tuesday. Southwest was originally scheduled to be the launch customer of the 737 MAX, but Norwegian ended up taking their first few 737 MAX aircraft at the end of June.
This makes Southwest the first North American carrier to take delivery of the 737 MAX. American Airlines is slated to take their first 737 MAX8 aircraft later this year.
According to a press release, Southwest plans to take delivery of eight more 737 MAX8 aircraft within a couple of weeks.
The first 737 MAX for Southwest, registered N8710M, took its first flight on August 9th, and was delivered to Dallas Love Field on August 29th, making it under a month from first fight to delivery. While there are currently ten Southwest 737 MAX8s built, four of them are former Boeing test aircraft. These aircraft were the first four 737 MAX aircraft ever built by Boeing. Now, Boeing is in the process of removing the testing equipment and outfitting the aircraft with Southwest’s interior.
Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX8 aircraft will be outfitted with 175 economy class seats. This is identical to Southwest’s configuration in its current 737-800.
Overall, Southwest is due to take delivery of 169 more 737 MAX8 aircraft along with 30 737 MAX 7 aircraft. While the 737 MAX7 has not sold well, Boeing has not announced anything about canceling the smallest variant of the 737 MAX family. Southwest currently operates 505 737-700s, so the 30 MAX7s are not likely to be a replacement for them as the 700s have an average age of just over 13 years, with the oldest being delivered in late 1997.
The 737 MAX8 is in part a replacement for the 737-300. Southwest has is rapidly retiring its 737-300 aircraft, with all of them expected to be gone from the fleet by the end of the year. Last week, Southwest retired 18 737-300s in one day. There are 43 737-300 left in the Southwest fleet.
The Southwest 737 MAX8 will enter service on October 1st on multiple routes. These can be viewed here.
Until then, Southwest will likely continue to train pilots on the 737 MAX8. Despite its design mirroring the 737-800, the cockpit will take some getting used to for Southwest’s pilots.