After a slow summer of travel, my full fall schedule continues. Fresh off my day trip to Portland, I’ve got another short but exciting day trip on Sunday. Southwest officially launches the Boeing 737-MAX, and I’ll be on board all three special launch flights.
Wait, THREE Launch Flights?
That’s right, Southwest is so excited about their new ride, they’re running three special launch fights. Southwest plans to recreate the original “Texas Triangle”, the company’s original routes from its start in 1971. The Triangle takes the MAX from Dallas, to Houston Hobby, to San Antonio, then back to Love again.
The flights operate on the following schedule:
- WN1 Dallas Love (DAL) to Houston Hobby (HOU), depart 07:00, arrive 08:05
- WN2 HOU to San Antonio (SAT), depart 08:55, arrive 09:50
- WN3 SAT to DAL, depart 10:40, arrive 11:45
Yes, getting up at 5 am on a Sunday is going to suck. But hey, all in the life of an AvGeek, right? I reached out to Southwest, and they will have events in the gate area at each city. I received no other details. However, knowing Southwest, I’m counting on some cheesy, city-themed goodness at each stop. (On the bright side, I’ll be home by lunchtime, and since it’s Sunday, I can sleep it off later.)
What’s So Special About The 737-MAX?
From a passenger perspective, the 737-MAX looks evolutionary, not revolutionary. The Southwest MAX interior is effectively the same as the “Heart” interior found on the 737-800. In other words, if you fly Southwest often, it’ll seem awfully familiar.
The real improvement with the MAX lies with efficiency and range. The MAX8 variant, which makes up Southwest’s order book, clocks in with a range of 3,515 miles. Mostly, that’s thanks to engines that are 14% more fuel efficient. That opens up several new route possibilities, including Hawai’i from the West Coast, northern South America from Houston, and some of Western Europe from the East Coast. For example, Houston to Lima checks in at 3,111 miles, and Phoenix to Honolulu at 2,918 miles. All of these routes have long been rumored, incidentally. It’ll be interesting to see what actually materializes. Given that we’re already seeing airlines like Norwegian run TATL flights with the MAX, I’d bet Southwest comes up with some interesting new ones pretty quickly.
On a Sadder Note – 737 Classics Fly Off Into the Sunset Today
Of course, what the airlines giveth, the airlines taketh away. In Southwest’s case, the coming of the 737-MAX means the demise of the 737-300. Known as the “Classic”, the 733 made up the backbone of the Southwest fleet for nearly 30 years. The Classics long had the best legroom in the fleet, with seats featuring up to 34″ of pitch. More recently, lack of WiFi and small overhead bins made them unpopular with some Southwest flyers, however. Today, only 29 of the birds grace the skies in Southwest colors. But at 11:35 pm tonight, the very last one heads for the boneyard. As soon as Flight 68 arrives at Love Field from Houston, it heads off to storage in Victorville, California.
I unfortunately only found out about the farewell flight a couple of days ago. I would have liked to get on that last flight, but fares this close-in are just too expensive to justify. Oh well. At least I caught a photo of the Classic “Arizona One” a few months ago.
The 737-MAX launch makes only my second launch flight, along with American’s 787 launch in 2015. Though perhaps not the most glamorous, I’m super excited about this one. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram for live updates along the way! Then, look for a full review of the experience hopefully next week.
Photo of Boeing 737-MAX8 – “Boeing 737 Max 8” by Charly W. Karl, via Flickr Creative Commons, license Attribution – No Derivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0).