Southwest Delays Retiring Older 737s Due To MAX Problems

The worldwide 737 MAX groundings have impacted many carriers. Southwest Airlines is one of those most acutely affected. As the world’s largest operator of the type, Southwest’s schedule and fleet plans have taken a hit. In order to preserve as much capacity as possible, Southwest is keeping their 737-700s in service for a little bit longer.

Southwest Boeing 737-700
Southwest Airlines is delaying the retirement of Boeing 737-700s amid the 737 MAX crisis. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s Boeing 737-700s

Most of Southwest’s fleet is comprised of Boeing 737-700s. Some of these came from AirTran after their merger was completed in 2012. A fair number of Boeing 737-700s were delivered in the late 1990s, making some of them 20 years old if not more.

For a low-cost carrier, old planes are expensive to maintain. So, when Southwest Airlines examined its fleet strategy, it was decided that the -700s would be replaced sooner rather than later. The Boeing 737 MAX was intended as the aircraft’s replacement.

AirTran and SWA
Southwest Airlines acquired Boeing 737-700s from AirTran. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The 737 MAX grounding hurts Southwest

CH-Aviation reports that Southwest Airlines is delaying the retirement of several Boeing 737-700s. Originally, 18 Boeing 737-700s were to end their service life with Southwest Airlines in 2019. Now, Southwest Airlines is keeping seven for a longer period. Thus, only 11 Boeing 737-700s will exit Southwest’s fleet in 2019.

This capacity crunch has hurt Southwest. Recently, Southwest announced that they were removing the 737 MAX from service until early 2020. This represents a much later timeline than Boeing had previously stuck to. In addition, Southwest is suspending flights to Newark-Liberty and will instead beef up operations to LaGuardia- an airport focused on key domestic flights.

Southwest Delays Retiring Older 737s Due To MAX Problems
Southwest Airlines, once a celebrated Boeing 737 MAX operator, is now altering their plans amid the Boeing 737 MAX grounding. Photo: Boeing

The Boeing 737-7

One of the replacements for the Boeing 737-700 was the smallest member of the 737 MAX family: the Boeing 737-7. Seven 737-7s were supposed to join Southwest’s fleet in 2019. Until the grounding is lifted, no 737-7s will enter Southwest’s fleet. Ultimately, the Boeing 737-7 offers better operating economics than the older Boeing 737-700.

Boeing 737 -7
The Boeing 737-7 offers better operating economics than older Boeing 737-700. Photo: Boeing


Until the grounding is lifted, however, Southwest will have to operate Boeing 737-700s for a little longer. This will have an impact on Southwest’s operations and affect their bottom line. Whether or not there will be more news coming from Southwest Airlines remains to be seen.

Boeing 737-700
Southwest’s Boeing 737-700s will fly for a little bit longer. Photo: Southwest Airlines

The 737-700s seat up to 143 passengers in an all-economy, six-abreast configuration. Once the 11 are withdrawn from service this year, Southwest will operate a total of 501 Boeing 737-700s. This means that a majority of Southwest’s fleet will still be comprised of Boeing 737-700s.

Have you flown on a Southwest Boeing 737-700? What are your thoughts on the Boeing 737-700? Let us know in the comments!