Southwest Airlines is big on Hawaii, and it knows the 737 MAX is one of the keys it needs to make operations to the state work even better. The MAX offers a better cost performance, better payload performance, and the opportunity to give Southwest a leg up over its competitors.
The Boeing 737 MAX for Southwest’s Hawaii operations
Southwest Airlines believes the Boeing 737 MAX will do well for Hawaii. Andrew Watterson, Chief Commercial Officer at Southwest, stated the following on the carrier’s fourth-quarter earnings call:
“The MAX gives us certainly a better cost performance, so immediately the contribution of that sector of our network improves with the improved aircraft. Also, the NGs have payload restrictions going westbound in the high wind time of the year, which is actually right now. We’ve not got the demand to fill the aircraft right now, so we’re not really having to restrict the payloads, but normally we would have to restrict the payloads this time of the year with the NG. The MAX with the greater range will be able to go full year-round to all the airfields they service, so that will also be an increment to our business case in Hawaii.”
The airline only a few years ago started up service from the mainland United States to Hawaii. This was a shakeup in the market that brought some additional competition to one of America’s top vacation destinations.
The airline currently plans to return the Boeing 737 MAX to commercial service from mid-March. However, the carrier will be waiting a bit before the MAX will return to service to Hawaii.
Southwest Airlines flies both the Boeing 737-700 and the 737-800 from the Boeing 737 Next Generation fleet. From the MAX fleet, Southwest currently flies the 737 MAX 8. The airline does have plans to take on the Boeing 737 MAX 7.
The best plane for flights down to Hawaii would the Boeing 737-800. The 175-seater aircraft is the perfect size for flights from California to Hawaii. While these planes can easily do longer routes, and Southwest has made them work, the calculus is slightly different for flights to the state.
Southwest knows people will take more bags with them to Hawaii, and it needs to ensure it has enough weight remaining to fill the planes with fuel to make the hop.
Why the Boeing 737 MAX is better
The Boeing 737 MAX is the next generation of Boeing’s 737 family. And, the 737 MAX is designed to serve longer routes and do it well. With improved range and proven capabilities to do long-haul routes– including some transatlantic operations– Southwest is eager to get these planes down to Hawaii. They have the right capacity and the right economics to make it down to Hawaii from California.
The 737 MAX is a plane that Southwest is eager to get back in regularly scheduled commercial service. The airline got lucky for a bit with the crisis, as demand for flights to Hawaii was tempered, even with the reopening.
Where the 737 MAX 7 fits in
Southwest currently has zero 737 MAX 7 jets in its fleet, but it has already made special plans for the jet. CEO Gary Kelly stated that the MAX 7 “is also a factor in the way we’re thinking about Hawaii.”
The MAX 7 is a smaller-capacity Boeing 737 MAX jet that will also offer the improved range and performance of the MAX 8, but with less capacity. This is great for flights with less demand or else where Southwest needs to fly a smaller aircraft. The MAX 7 would also easily be slotted into intra-island flights, which is another market Southwest competes in and is so far doing well.
Are you excited to see Southwest place the Boeing 737 MAX into service to and from Hawaii? Let us know in the comments!