How To Tell If You’re Flying On The Boeing 737 MAX

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With the Boeing 737 MAX recertification, airlines are starting to plan for the aircraft’s return to service. They will need to restore customer confidence, which for most means allowing passengers to avoid the type if they wish. But how can you tell if you’re flying on a MAX? Let’s find out.

Boeing 737 MAX, Booking, Differences
In the coming months, the Boeing 737 MAX will start to return to the skies above America. Photo: Getty Images

Since the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded back in March 2019, it has been a long journey to reach the point we’re at now with the FAA recertifying the type. As such, US airlines are looking to resume MAX flights. However, outside of US airspace, the type will still need further certification.

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Checking the booking engine

Some airlines will tell you what aircraft type you’re flying on at the time of booking. For example, when expanding flight details on the American Airlines website, it will list the “Boeing 737 MAX 8” if you’re scheduled to fly on that aircraft. However, you will need to click the option to “show flight details” proactively.

Boeing 737 MAX, Booking, Differences
The American Airlines website will show if you’re booking a 737 MAX flight. Photo: American Airlines/Simple Flying

However, while this is the case with American Airlines, other MAX operators may not indicate the aircraft type on the website. For example, Ryanair has said that its scheduling system cannot show the aircraft type in advance. While the airline will likely offer refunds for those unwilling to fly on the MAX, they will only find out the aircraft type at the gate.

How to spot if your aircraft is the 737 MAX

There are two things that you can use to tell whether the aircraft that you’re flying on is the 737 MAX. Let’s start with the aircraft’s wingtips. Taking Ryanair as an example once more, it will only operate the 737-800 and the 737 MAX 200 for the time being. All of the airline’s -800s have a single winglet which extends up vertically from the end of the wing. If the winglets go up and down,  the aircraft is a Boeing 737 MAX.

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Boeing 737 MAX, Booking, Differences
The Boeing 737 MAX has split winglets. Photo: Boeing

However, some airlines, such as United, also operate non-MAX 737s with the ‘split scimitar’ winglet. While the winglets themselves differ in design, it could cause confusion determining the aircraft type for some. In this case, you will need to look at the engine to determine if you’re flying on a 737 MAX. The engine’s covering is known as a nacelle.

Boeing 737 MAX, Booking, Differences
The rear of the Boeing 737 MAX’s engines is serrated. Photo: Getty Images

Looking at the rear of this will indicate which aircraft you’re flying on. All non-MAX 737s will have a smooth edge at the back of the engine cover. However, much like the Boeing 787 and 747-8’s engines, the 737 MAX has serrated ‘teeth’ on the engine cover’s rear.

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Would you opt to avoid the Boeing 737 MAX now that it’s been recertified? Let us know what you think and why in the comments! 

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