Navigating the low-cost skies: overview of Southwest 737 Max 8

In this article, we’ll delve into the details of the 737 Max 8 Southwest, focusing on its numbers, performance & specifications, interior, and so on.

US carrier Southwest Airlines reached a significant milestone by hitting a fleet size of 800 aircraft in July this year. The low-cost giant is an exclusive Boeing operator, with its entire fleet comprising Boeing 737 narrowbodies. The all-Boeing 737 fleet of Southwest Airlines comprises examples of -700, -800, Max 7, and Max 8 models. Currently, the Dallas-based carrier has the fourth-largest fleet size worldwide at 808 aircraft. Of significant 808, Boeing 737 Max 8s are the newest additions. There are 195 Max 8s in service and 270 units yet to be delivered. The fuel-efficient 737 Max 8s represent the future of narrowbodies at Southwest and are soon to form the backbone of its still-growing fleet.

737 Max 8 Southwest N8867Q Photo from Suncoast Spotter

737 Max 8 Southwest: Figures

Low-cost pioneer Southwest is the largest operator of US-built 737 Max jets. The Dallas-headquartered carrier has 195 Max jets, all of which are examples of the -8 variant. These are the youngest aircraft in Southwest’s fleet, with an average age of roughly three years. With the 737 Max production ramp-up at Boeing, the carrier is rapidly taking delivery of the new narrowbodies. 13 new airframes joined the fleet in March, followed by four in April and five in May. By the year-end, upward of 240 Max 8 jets are slated to enter the Southwest schedule.

The US discount airline is betting big on the Max 8 with 270 outstanding orders with the US planemaker Boeing. The 737 Max 8 Southwest will power the LCC’s future growth, escalate its post-pandemic recovery, and help meet strong travel demand.

737 Max 8 Southwest: History

US’ leading carrier, Southwest, first announced to become the 737 Max 8’s launch customer in 2011. Moving with the schedule, it acquired its first -8 in August 2017 and inducted it into the regular service on October 1, 2017.

The carrier entered the year 2018 with 14 of the type. Fast forward to 2023, Southwest Airlines has procured 195 units, making it the global leader regarding -8. Currently, Southwest is atop the list of carriers holding the most active B737 Max jets.

South West Boeing 737-800; Photo by Dexter Greene

As part of its fleet modernization and global growth strategy, Southwest still has 300+ Max jets on order books. Once they all get delivered, the 737 Max airliners will make up about 50% of Southwest’s ever-growing fleet.

The latest narrowbody developments support Southwest’s commitment to operate a modern and environmentally compatible fleet. The new -8s will gradually replace older Boeing 737-700 NGs, currently comprising the bulk of the fleet. The aging -700 New Generation airliners clock in more than 18. 8 years on average, with the oldest unit tracing back to 1997. With more Max 8s entering the fleet, Southwest will progressively phase out its elderly -700s.

737 Max 8 Southwest specifications

Boeing 737 Max 8 is a technologically advanced aircraft with powerful engines and efficient winglets. Powered by two CFM LEAP-1B engines, the state-of-art Max 8 can fly longer distances up to 3,500 nmi (6,500 km). It flies at an impressive cruise speed of Mach 0.79 (453kn), carrying a maximum payload of 46,040 lb.

Incorporating high-tech design in Max 8 features provides Southwest with unparalleled fuel efficiency and enhanced reliability in the single-aisle market. These modern and greener technology aircraft offer an impressive 20% improvement in fuel use and CO2 emissions compared with the earlier jets in the same seat class.

Also Read: A short chapter in US aviation: Why did Convair 990 Coronado fail?

The new single-aisle narrowbody jets facilitate controlled and sustainable growth and deliver significant market expansion opportunities across the US. Lower fuel burn and inherent maintenance cost advantage will drive further unit cost savings, which ultimately passes on to Southwest customers in cheaper tickets.

With highly-efficient 737 Max 8s on board, the budget airline can push further for post-pandemic growth and take its low fares even further.

737 Max 8 Southwest seat specifications

The 737 Max 8 Southwest is outfitted with 175 seats in a single-class setup. Guided by its low-cost philosophy, Southwest doesn’t bother offering premium cabins and offers all-economy seats to traveling passengers.

The 737 Max 8 Southwest measures 129 feet 6 inches long and can accommodate 25 passengers more than its smaller Max 7 sibling. The modern leather seats are comfortable and come with 17.8 inches of width and 32” pitch. Thanks to the carrier’s widest economy seat offerings in the 737 market, Southwest customers can travel in comfort and personal space.

Southwest’s Boeing 737 Max 8 seats feature:

  • Adjustable headrests (allowing passengers to adjust the height and angle of the headrests in alignment with their unique posture, preventing neck strain)
  • A lower-profile armrest (a designated space for flyers to rest their arms on the sides of the seat)
  • Advanced cushion support (designed to create a comfortable seat experience)
  • An elevated information pocket and rear seat beam (an additional room allowing customers to keep personal devices within easy reach)

By exclusively operating 737 aircraft, the carrier reaps the benefits of fleet consistency and commonality. The Max 8’s 80% spare part commonality with the earlier 737-800 enables cost savings for the LCC through reduced inventory management and simplified maintenance processes.

737 Max 8 Southwest interior

The 737 Max 8 Southwest features Boeing’s cutting-edge Sky Interior, inspired by the Dreamliner interior. Travelers can look forward to distinctive/comfortable cabin experience with modern sculpted sidewalls, window reveals, overhead stowage bins, and LED illumination. The carrier uses a sequence of LED lighting at each step of the passenger journey from takeoff to landing to make the cabin environment welcoming and relaxing.

Other special features include a quiet cabin atmosphere (due to silent engines), a music-infused Customer Experience, and Flight-Attendant-designed galleys.

737 Max 8 Southwest in-flight entertainment system

Unlike legacy carriers, Southwest doesn’t offer seatback video screens. However, those looking to pass their time in the air can access the carrier’s streaming service from their device. They can explore various TV shows, music, and movies in Southwest’s in-flight entertainment menu and stay entertained.

Southwest Max 8 charging ports

The lack of in-flight power has been a common source of complaints among Southwest flyers. However, this will soon be the relic of the past as the airline has begun installing seatback USB charging ports onboard 737 Max aircraft. The latest-generation USB A and USB C charging ports on every seat are designed to power various electrical/electronic devices.

Boeing 737 Max 8 Southwest vs Boeing 737-800

The popular NG series model, B737-800, is the forerunner to Max 8, the first variant developed in the 737 Max series. However, both variants can carry the same no. Of passengers, i.e., 175, there are differences in flight performance.

The earlier-built 737-800s are fitted with CFM56-7B24/26/27 engines, while 737 Max 8s incorporate more powerful CFM LEAP 1-B engines. Adopting efficient engines gives -8s an edge over its predecessor in range and fuel burn. Mid-sized Boeing 737 Max 8s burn 14% less fuel and can fly up to 500NM farther than their -800 forerunners.

Both Boeing 737 Max 8s and B737-800s share one thing in common. Both are the most popular members of the respective series, with impressive purchase orders and deliveries. US aerospace giant Boeing has sold 4,991 units of 737-800s and over 1070 examples of mid-sized Max 8s so far.

Southwest houses 207 B737-800s, making it the third-largest type operator behind Ryanair and American Airlines.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 7 aircraft

Currently, the Max fleet of Southwest Airlines is entirely composed of -8 units. However, the carrier is set to bolster its Max fleet with the addition of several 737 Max 7s this year. Boeing 737 Max 7 is the smallest member of the latest series, measuring just 116 feet 8 inches long. Due to its relatively shorter fuselage, it can carry just 150 passengers, 25 less than Max 8s.

The 737 Max 7s will work with Max 8s to pave the path for elderly B737-700s into retirement. Southwest has outstanding orders for 192 Max 7s but hasn’t received any. Initially, the 737 Max 7 Southwest deliveries were planned for 2022. However, Boeing’s plan for those deliveries didn’t materialize due to production and quality issues. As such, Boeing will start flying Max 7s to its loyal customer Southwest Airlines from next year.

Performance-wise, Boeing 737 Max 7 can fly at the cruising speed of Mach 0.79 as far as 3,800 nmi. It offers 18% lower fuel costs per seat than the aircraft it replaces, i.e. -700.

About Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is a US-based carrier specializing in operating low-cost flights nationwide. With a strong fleet of 800+ aircraft, the airline serves over 120 million annual passengers across its extensive network of over 120 destinations.

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