Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Southwest Quietly Takes Delivery of Its First Boeing 737 Max

  • Upgraded single-aisle jet nears debut at a U.S. carrier Oct. 1
  • Airline cancels party for new plane, citing Houston flooding

Southwest Airlines Co. quietly took delivery of its first Boeing Co. 737 Max jetliner, canceling an employee celebration in Dallas to mark the milestone because of the devastation in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The jet’s Tuesday arrival at Southwest marks the first at a North American carrier for the Max, which has shattered sales records at Boeing. Record rainfall and flooding has shut down Houston, one of Southwest’s original markets from the early 1970s.

“Respecting that many of our folks can’t get out of Houston or are impacted, it just didn’t seem right to do that,” Dan Lansdon, a spokesman for the carrier, said of the ceremony that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

The Southwest jet, with tail number N8710M, landed 16 minutes early at Dallas Love Field, according to Flightaware.com. That’s fitting for the Max, which glided through development months ahead of schedule, entering the commercial market in May with Malindo Airways, the Malaysian affiliate of Lion Mentari Airlines PT.

Southwest still claims the title of launch customer for the Max 8 after placing the initial order in 2011, a role it has served for three earlier 737 models as the largest buyer of the single-aisle plane. The Dallas-based carrier has 200 of the upgraded Max planes on order with Boeing and plans to take delivery of the first 14 this year. The airline’s pilots union tweeted a photo of the aircraft landing on Tuesday.

Plane Swapping

The planes will debut in the U.S. on Oct. 1 in a complex switch as the carrier retires its remaining Boeing 737-300s, the oldest planes in its fleet. The last flight of the older jets, known as the Classics, will be Sept. 29.

The Max brings Southwest fuel savings and a break on maintenance costs as the airline sheds a 737 model it has been using since Ronald Reagan was president. The newest 737 will burn more than 20 percent less fuel than the soon-to-be-retired jets, according to Southwest.

Uncertainty about Federal Aviation Administration training requirements for flying the 737-300 fleet versus the Max led to Southwest’s decision in April to retire the older planes early. Southwest and its pilots union failed to agree on terms that would have separated a group of aviators to fly only the 737-300s and simplify training for the switch in planes.

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