Southwest just put the Boeing 737 MAX back on its schedule

Feb 7, 2021

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Boeing’s journey to get the 737 MAX back in the sky is nearing completion, at least in the U.S.

Over the weekend, Southwest Airlines became the final domestic carrier to put the beleaguered jet back on its schedule. The Dallas-based carrier will restart MAX service on March 11, with four flights scheduled to take off at the same time across the network (9 a.m. Eastern, 8 a.m. Central and 7 a.m. Mountain).

There are 32 total MAX flights scheduled for March 11, across a host of routes, all of which are listed below according to Cirium timetable data.

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Southwest’s MAX rollout plan is significantly more comprehensive than other carriers. American Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to restart MAX flights on Dec. 29 with once-daily service between Miami (MIA) and New York/LaGuardia (LGA). American has since expanded its MAX schedule to cover an average of 45 daily flights, according to Cirium schedules.

In addition to American and Southwest, Alaska Airlines and United have the 737 MAX in their fleet. On Thursday, Feb. 11, Chicago-based United will restart MAX service with 24 flights across the country. At the outset, the plane will be primarily based in Denver and Houston.

Alaska just took delivery of its first 737 MAX roughly two weeks ago. Alaska’s first MAX is scheduled to enter service on March 1 with daily roundtrip flights between Seattle and San Diego, and Seattle and Los Angeles. The airline is then expected to take delivery of its second 737 MAX 9 later in March.

For Boeing, Southwest’s move is welcome news. Unless plans change, every U.S. carrier will have the MAX back in the air come March 11. All eyes will then turn to other major markets, like China, which still haven’t recertified the plane.

On Nov. 18, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration ungrounded the plane, following two fatal crashes that took 346 lives combined. All recertified jets must receive software updates to the flight control systems, which takes just four hours, according to one of American Airlines’ top mechanics.

Pilots must also undergo new required training before they fly the plane once again. All Southwest pilots will be retrained prior to the March 11 relaunch, which includes some test flights without paying passengers.

Related: A pilot and mechanic explain what’s needed to bring the 737 MAX back

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, recently flew on one of the carrier’s readiness flights, remarking on Twitter that “my flight today only reaffirmed my supreme confidence in the airworthiness of the MAX.”

Southwest flyers who want to avoid flying on the MAX will have some added flexibility. Through May 31, customers may contact the airline for a fee-free change to a non-MAX flight within three days of the originally scheduled departure date.

All Southwest tickets, including those operated by the MAX, qualify for free cancelations in exchange for future travel credit.

A full list of Southwest’s first 737 MAX routes is below:

  • ATL – RSW, Flight number: 6589
  • BWI – MSY, Flight number: 6008 (one of the first four Southwest MAX flights)
  • BWI – RSW, Flight number: 6024
  • CMH – PHX, Flight number: 6007
  • DEN – MCO, Flight number: 6013
  • DEN – MDW, Flight number: 6001 (one of the first four Southwest MAX flights)
  • HOU – MCI, Flight number: 6548
  • HOU – SLC, Flight number: 6029
  • LAS – PHX, Flight number: 6020
  • LAS – SAT, Flight number: 6237
  • MCI – HOU, Flight number: 6028 (one of the first four Southwest MAX flights)
  • MCO – DEN, Flight number: 6598
  • MCO – MDW, Flight number: 6623 (one of the first four Southwest MAX flights)
  • MCO – MSY, Flight number: 6010
  • MDW – DEN, Flight number: 6002
  • MDW – MCO, Flight number: 6555
  • MDW – PHX, Flight number: 6026
  • MDW – RSW, Flight number: 6004
  • MSY – BWI, Flight number: 6011
  • MSY – MCO, Flight number: 6268
  • PDX – PHX, Flight number: 6016
  • PHX – CMH, Flight number: 6006
  • PHX – LAS, Flight number: 6021
  • PHX – MDW, Flight number: 6027
  • PHX – PDX, Flight number: 6015
  • PHX – SLC, Flight number: 6017
  • RSW – ATL, Flight number: 6025
  • RSW – BWI, Flight number: 6023
  • RSW – MDW, Flight number: 6399
  • SAT – LAS, Flight number: 6019
  • SLC – HOU, Flight number: 6030
  • SLC – PHX, Flight number: 6014

Featured image by Mark Ralston/Getty Images

This article was corrected to show that Southwest plans to restart MAX flights on four routes at the exact same time on the morning of March 11.

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