Gone But Not Forgotten: The Boeing 737-300 In America

The Boeing 737-300 is a so-called Classic B737, along with the smaller -500 and larger -400 series. Perhaps surprisingly, there are no more passenger B737-300 flights scheduled to, from, or within the USA, with its use in recent years solely by foreign carriers.

Cayman B737-300
Cayman Airways had the last scheduled passenger B737-300 flights to/from the US, although not by VP-CAY. Photo: Oscar Josué Elvir Vasquez via Flickr.

No more passenger USA B737-300 flights

If you look at the following figure, you can immediately tell when Southwest ended the use of the B737-300: in 2017. Notice how there appears to have been no seats for sale by the aircraft after then.

In reality, it has been used, just with little available capacity and too little to be visible. Data experts OAG shows that there were 412,000 seats in 2018, 322,000 in 2019, 183,000 in 2020, and 153,000 in 2021. Very little compared to the 22.7 million in 2017.

Flights by the B737-300 have now ended. The last scheduled user of the B737-300 involving the US was Cayman Airways. In 2021, Cayman deployed the type from Grand Cayman to Denver, Miami, New York JFK, and Tampa, together with Miami to Cayman Brac.

B737-300 use to, from, and within the US
The B737-300 had 1.3 billion seats between 2004 and 2021. With just over one billion, Southwest was overwhelmingly the primary user of the Classic 737. In Source of data: OAG.

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Other exciting B737-300 users

In more recent years, intriguing operators to the US included Magnicharters, Swift Air, and VivaAerobus. But perhaps the most intriguing was Boliviana. For a few months in 2014, it used 138-seat B737-300s on a four-weekly operation to Miami.

Launched in June 2014, it operated the almost 3,040 nautical mile route – longer than Heathrow to JFK – from Cochabamba (CBB) via Santa Cruz (VVI) and Panama City (PTY) to Miami. The initial schedule is shown below, with the somewhat ironic flight number 767, the widebody that ultimately replaced the narrowbody on the route and ended the Panama refueling stop.

  • OB766: CBB-VVI: 06:00-06:45; VVI-PTY: 0830-12:00; PTY-MIA: 13:00-16:45
  • OB767: MIA-PTY: 2100-22:45, PTY-VVI: 23:45-05:15+1; VVI-CMB: 07:00-07:45
Boliviana 737-300 to Miami
Boliviana had relatively few flights but it’s a highly interesting routing. Image: GCMap.

Southwest was the king of the B737-300

Southwest was crucial for the B737-300 both globally and in the US, just as it was for the B737-500. It was the launch customer of -300. It had 195 examples over the years, the first of which – aptly registered N300SW – was delivered in November 1984 and the last almost exactly 15 years later.

Southwest B737-300
Routes operated by the B737-300 between 2004 and 2017 had an average distance of 460nm. Some longer reasonably regular routes included Los Angeles to Nashville (1,562nm) and Chicago Midway to Los Angeles (1,521nm). Photo: BrianYYZ via Flickr.

Southwest retired the Classic 300, which had 137 seats, on September 29th, 2017. The honor for the final flight went to N632SW, delivered in 1999. Very fittingly, the last route was from Houston Hobby to Dallas Love, a short 208 nautical miles.

The final route was appropriate not just for its symbolism for the carrier, but also because this airport pair had more B737-300 flights than any other between 2004-2017.

The author has flown quite a few B737-300s, albeit only within Europe. What are your best memories or experiences of the series? Share them in the comments.