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Southwest Airlines sends oldest 737s to graveyard as MAX joins flee
Originally published September 29, 2017 at 6:36 pm Updated September 29, 2017 at 7:51 pm
The changeover will usher in the latest fresh start for Boeing’s bread-and-butter passenger plane, extending Southwest’s almost 50-year dedication to the 737 model.
Southwest Airlines is set to pull off an aviation high-wire act this weekend as it sends 30 of its oldest planes to a desert graveyard just 24 hours before launching the newest version of its staple 737 jetliner.
The changeover will usher in the latest fresh start for Boeing’s bread-and-butter passenger plane, extending Southwest’s almost 50-year dedication to the 737 model. Saying goodbye to the old jets will reduce maintenance and fuel costs and improve on-time performance, while the new, bigger 737 MAX offers more advanced technology and design.
For the transition to be a success, the airline must execute a carefully choreographed series of flights to move the older planes out of the fleet and bring in nine MAX aircraft without creating delays or disruptions. Planning for the shift — its biggest such move ever — began 16 months ago and requires the coordination of flight crews, dispatchers, network planners, crew schedulers and technical operations teams.
The last of Southwest’s 737-300s, dubbed Classics, were making their final flights in the airline’s domestic system Friday. By the end of Saturday, they’ll all be parked at an aircraft graveyard in Victorville, California, a desert town northwest of Los Angeles.
On Sunday, nine MAX jetliners will start service from six different airports, with the first flying the “Texas Triangle” of Dallas-Houston-San Antonio that made up Southwest’s original routes in 1971. Southwest will add five more MAX planes to its fleet before year end, and deploy used 737-700s it acquired to help fill any remaining gaps in its schedule.
If all goes well, passengers won’t even notice a difference, said Jon Stephens, director of fleet transactions at the Dallas-based carrier. The transition was timed to happen after Labor Day, when travel demand dips.
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