Southwest Wants Second Hand Boeing 737s To Stand In For MAX Shortage

Southwest Airlines is looking to take on second-hand Boeing 737NG aircraft to make up on lost ground due to the 737 MAX groundings. Additionally, the airline has had to defer the retirement of seven 737-700s due to the ongoing saga.

Southwest 737 MAX
It has nearly been a year since the Boeing 737 MAX grounding has been causing problems for airlines across the globe. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Maxed out

The carrier is one of the 737 MAX’s biggest customers. Its 310 orders meant that it was heavily relying on the aircraft on operations this decade. Even the 34 MAXs that it holds already have been sitting idle since March 2019.

Altogether, Southwest’s full-year operating profit was down 28 percent in 2019. Moreover, the company profited $828 million less than if the MAX has been in service.


Flexible fleet

CH-Aviation reports that Southwest CEO Gary Kelly shared the Dallas-based airline’s plans for its 737 aircraft during an earnings call on January 23rd.


“With our -700 retirement schedule, we have a lot of flexibility. So we’re actively deferring retirements where it makes sense. Secondly, we’re always monitoring the used 737 aircraft market. We’ll continue to do that,” Kelly said..

Southwest 737-700
Southwest is hoping that other Boeing 737 aircraft will be able to help cover operations this year while the 737 MAX remains grounded. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Meanwhile, CFO Tammy Romo went further into detail on the outlook for his carrier’s fleet. He shared that seven of the 18 737-700s will be kept on, despite originally being prepared for retirement last year. This move will also incur additional maintenance expenses of $10 million for Southwest.


“We’ll operate these seven aircraft for around two more years and they are scheduled to be retired by the end of 2021,” Romo shared.

“As for the remaining eleven -700’s retirement plan for 2019, we retired six of them; one in the third quarter and five during the fourth quarter. The remaining five retirements have shifted to the first half of 2020,”

Ultimately, Southwest plans to retire 16 737-700s this year. This includes the five that it hoped to let go in 2019. Nonetheless, despite the company expecting that the MAX will remain out of service by June 6, it assumes that there are only months to go and not years till it is back in action.

Southwest 737 MAX Parked
Southwest ordered more 737 MAXs than any other US airline. Photo: Getty Images

Preparations in place

The airline recently shared its plan on how it will reintroduce its jets when they are cleared by authorities. Extensive maintenance checks and crew training will be conducted before passenger services will resume.

Additionally, it is investing in simulators to help pilots familiarize themselves with the planes. Therefore, the firm is ensuring that it will be ready for action as soon as possible.

Simple Flying reached out to Southwest Airlines for comment on its Boeing 737 aircraft.

A Southwest spokesperson confirmed that the company decided to defer 18 of its originally planned 737-700 retirements for 2019 and 2020, combined. The airline did this to help it mitigate the fleet deficit that it is experiencing due to the MAX groundings.

What are your thoughts on the situation with Southwest’s fleet? Let us know what you think in the comment section.


Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted

What else can they do, near term? With such a reliance on 737s, they're heavily impacted by the long grounding, and maybe by the reputation damage to the MAX and Boeing.

jim holland

I would not fly in one after they come back they are unstable


Boeing really HAVEN’T helped their customers, especially the airlines with Big 737 fleets, by their constant lying about when the MAX could be expected back in service.?
You would have thought they would have given their biggest customers far more of an ‘inside-track’ on how long the MAX was REALLY likely to be grounded for.?
The fact that Boeing has openly Lied to them can not have engendered any particular degree of trust between the airlines & the manufacturer.?

John Moss

With deferring the retirement of the 700’s makes me a little weary to board 1. If it was due for retirement how much longer or how many more cycles will it be able to perform before an explosive decompression becomes immanent???


1. The B737 MAX is fundamentally unsafe, and regulators should take pause at re-certifying the airliner.

2. Many in the industry and on forums underestimate the level of public concern and unwillingness to fly on the MAX. I expect someone technically oriented to make a “am I scheduled to fly on a MAX” website that will go viral.

3. Southwest one of the airlines that is to blame for the 737 MAX existing in that they created the business case for it.

4. Southwest only has two options going forward –
(A) lose profits with taking on NGs and flying a jet no one wants to get on, or
(b) take on the Airbus A320 or A220

Anyways this doesn’t concern me. I refuse to fly on the greyhound of the skies. Southwest could stand to become more civilized with assigned seats instead of their current boarding system. They’re also leaving huge money on the table with free bags.

Linda Moore. LUV stockholder.

Was there any problems in the flights of Southwest? Was it due to pilot error or airplane problem? Did any crashes happen for Southwest while the 737 MAX problems were happening? Was Southwest involved in any way? These facts should be told to the public. Regardless, I think these planes should be returned to Boeing. The 737 has successfully flown for Southwest for years. Go back to the tried and true.


If 737-MAX has fundamental physics problem, as the exposed during the course of its being on spot light, it is not ok to rely on pilot training or software fixes. The fundamental physics problem that was reported was , as Boeing mounted bigger engines than the previous/original design, the center of gravity of the aircraft has been shifted. This may cause a natural stability problem. If this is true, the FAA should closely look at what instability this can bring during any flight, especially in rough weather. Even aircrafts with well balanced designs, occasionally shake and shiver in rough weather. If 737 MAX has basic physics-problem, better to do serious structural changes before allowing it to fly again.

Aaron Aaron

Boeing CEO says “my stomach turned” when he found out that Boeing pilots and engineers were aware of the 737max design problems well in advance of the crashes. What was he doing to justify his salary? The CEO of a tech company needs to be able to get down on his hands and knees and point out to the designer where his break linkage is faulty. And he needs to do that continually. At every level of management the same principle applies. If anyone at any level finds a problem, it needs to get attention at several levels up, escalating until it is solved, not covered up.

My opinion is that Boeing has fatally corrupted its corporate culture and needs to be broken up, sold off to pay the people hurt by its malfeasance, from the families of the dead passengers to the ticket clerks who got laid off, and have a great many of its people in court for m****r and accessory before and after the fact.

Matt Harris

It’s time for Southwest to diversify and order 300 A220’s. The 2×3 seating will remove a bunch of middle seats and it has 15% less fuel burn than their -700s. It’s a perfect plane for their business model.

jake taylor

I think the plane is ok there were no accidents in the U,S.A. which is a tribute to the pilots. There were some reports of trouble, but none lead to a total failure. I love the Southwest planes and think they should continue to operate them. Some Americans have monies invested in Airbus and I am sure they would love for Boeing to close up shop. As a customer of Southwest I would love for them to continue to purchase the Boeing Aircraft. Had three flights on a 737-800 and they were great flights.


Agreed. Bad period for Boeing. Not a good look and much needs doing to re-earn our trust. For me, having piloted Boeings and Airbuses for over 30 years, I would have no hesitation in flying a Max once re-certified. This recertification, if it happens, will be scrutinised like no other!


The only thing that gives me pause about SW on safety is that they offshore their heavier maintenance to countries whose MRO’s are “FAA Certified and Inspected” instead of “FAA Supervised”. But, they’re not the only U.S. carrier that does this. Should be illegal, IMHO…

As for the 737 Max, why didn’t crashes occur to Southwest? United? American? Westjet? Air Canada? Given that their usage was at least as intense -if not more so- than the planes of Lion Air and Ethiopian, planes should’ve been pancaking-in all over North America…

Lee G

I love Southwest and have flown exclusively for 30 years. But there’s no chance whatsoever of me getting into a Max. They are going to train pilots regarding the quirks of flying that plane? If pilots need to be re trained to fly just because this new model isn’t as straight forward as a plane should be…then let Southwest employees fly on them for vacations. I won’t be on one

Jim W

TONYtTDK, do you really think Boeing has the answer to when the MAX is coming back? The answer is no, they do not… the FAA has made it very clear after investigating the crashes that they will decide when the MAX will be cleared to operate.and like 8 other federal regulators. Boeing will have an input, but FAA will be final authority. Boeing has not lied to anyone about return to service (RTS). Boeing would issue their approximate RTS date but to be overruled by the FAA in every case. The FAA is the agency who said NET June 2020.


Keeping the MAX on the ground now is just for show by the FAA.