Just International: The US Only Has 3 Boeing 737-500 Routes Left

The ‘baby’ Boeing – the B737-500 – has almost reached the end of serving the United States. With just three routes remaining, all international, the type has only 76 round-trip flights scheduled in September. Yet, it’s not all bad news. The aircraft resumed serving the US in 2020 after last being used – by Southwest – in 2016.

Bahamasair B737-500
Bahamasair has two B737-500s and uses the aircraft between Nassau and Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando. Photo: Venkat Mangudi via Wikimedia.

Just three B737-500 routes to the US left

The Boeing 737-500’s last scheduled use to the US is with Bahamasair. The carrier has two 735s (C6-BFD and -BFE) with an average of 28.2 years, ch-aviation indicates, each with 120 seats in an all-economy layout.

Only ‘BFD is active, Flightradar24 confirms. This specific aircraft was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in 1993 and remained until 2000, was used by Air France between 2000 and 2005, moved to Indian Ocean carrier Air Austral in 2005 and stayed until 2012, and took up its current home in June 2012.

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In September, Bahamasair will use the B737-500 (code: 735; with winglets: 73E) on three routes from Nassau, the Bahamas capital, to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando with an average distance of just 233 miles. Note that the type won’t be the only equipment used. In fact, all three Florida routes mainly use the 138-seat B737-700, and at times the ATR-72 and smaller -42.

Bahamasair B737-500
This aircraft, C6-BFD, is Bahamasair’s currently only active example. It is seen here at Fort Lauderdale, just 182 miles – about 35 minutes in the air – from Nassau. Photo: JTOcchialini via Wikimedia.

The B737-500 in the US

In 2004, the 735, one of three Classic 737 series, had 27.2 million seats within and to/from the US across four airlines: Southwest; United; Continental; and CanJet. The latter was a Canadian operator which, in 2004, mainly used the type on a scheduled basis from Montreal to New York LaGuardia. However, Halifax to Tampa St Pete and Orlando and Hamilton to Orlando also saw the aircraft.

The Boeing 737-500 in and to and from the US
Blink and you’ll miss it. You can just about see the tiny amount of capacity in 2021! Source: OAG.

Southwest, Continental, and United

Southwest had 36% of seats by the aircraft in 2004, more or less the same as for Continental. Southwest’s share gradually rose as United retired the type in August 2009. However, the 735 reappeared with the ‘new’ United in 2012, having inherited 27 former Continental aircraft following the pair’s full integration, but they only remained until May 2013.

Southwest 737-500
The relationship between the two of the Classics – B737-500 and -300 – is enlightening. The Classic -300, with only a 4% heavier MTOW than the smaller aircraft, has a 14% higher payload. Photo: redlegsfan21 via Flickr.

The economics of the -500 was not favorable, except perhaps in the most niche circumstances or if you really didn’t need the extra payload. It’s the same as between, say, the B737-600 and -700, and A318 and A319, and so on.

Southwest was the only user from 2014-2016

It seemed fitting that from 2014 until 2016, Southwest was the sole scheduled user of the type involving the US. The carrier was the launch customer of the aircraft, which joined its fleet in September 1990. The last delivery – of 25 – arrived in May 1992, with the carrier retiring the 735 24 years later in September 2016.

Between 2014-2016, Southwest’s used the type on 144 routes, including a good number on a one-off basis. However, it was enormously about its top-10 routes, which between them had nearly two-thirds of capacity. These were all short sectors – an average of just 329 miles – and mainly its classic Texas routes, led by Dallas Love to Houston Hobby and followed by Houston-Harlingen, Austin-Love, San Antonio-Love, and Lubbock-Love.

What are your memories of the B737-500? Let us know by commenting.

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