Southwest Switcheroo Left Us Taking Our First 737 MAX Flight

by joeheg

When I was putting together our trip to Hawaii, I needed a flight to get us from Kauai to Oahu. After searching, I found a great deal on a Southwest flight. I booked our inter-island flight for 2,240 Rapid Rewards points and $5.60 in taxes.

I was so thrilled to have one more part of the trip planning finished, I neglected to look at one thing – which aircraft type Southwest used on its Hawaii flights. Honestly, it didn’t matter at the time because they could swap aircraft on any route over the course of several months. It wasn’t until we were in Hawaii and I was checking on our flights that I realized that the usual plane for the LIH-HNL flight is a 737-800 MAX (shown on FlightAware as B38M)

a screenshot of a phone

When I checked on the morning of our flight, the plane was showing as a MAX.

I wasn’t overly worried about this fact. It’s just that we’d been avoiding the aircraft even before it was grounded. One reason was that the plane was reportedly not very comfortable. If we’d be taking one, at least it would be on a 35-minute trip.

I didn’t say anything to Sharon, but she texted me once we boarded the plane (we were seated at different rows because, Southwest).

a screenshot of a phone

I’ve heard that airlines are not using the MAX designation because of the negative feelings so I wasn’t surprised when Southwest didn’t mark it on the safety information card.

It wasn’t until I started looking around that things weren’t adding up. There are several ways to tell a 737 MAX from an older version 737.

Looking at the wing, I noticed that the winglets were the wrong shape for the MAX, which does not have a pointy end on the top.

an airplane wing in the air

When we landed, I took a picture of the plane and looked up the registration number, N8306H, on

a screenshot of a computer

The plane is a 737-800 NG (next generation). Another giveaway is that the aircraft was almost 10 years old before MAX planes were produced.

Going back to FlightAware confirmed that our plane was a 737-800.

a close-up of a number

Southwest swapped planes sometime after I looked in the morning. Since Southwest has open seating, there’s no need to change seat assignments.

I’m partially disappointed because I know I’ll eventually need to fly on a MAX aircraft and this would have been a great time to get it out of the way. However, the longer the aircraft is back in operation, the less I’ll be worried about flying on one. To be honest, I wasn’t concerned about this flight.

What are your feelings about flying on a 737 MAX?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Dave February 28, 2022 - 12:37 am

Flown on Max8 a few times since allowed back in service. I find them more comfortable than the 700s and older 800s.

Rob March 1, 2022 - 4:39 pm

Just a quick correction. The MAX series are not 800’s or 900’s. They are simply ‘MAX8’s or MAX9’s

Bonus Business February 28, 2022 - 1:17 am

One of the most scrutinized aircraft in operation now so I wouldn’t have any issue flying on one. A large factor in the MAX incidents was poor training for the flight crews. Both accidents were in 3rd world countries by airlines that have thin profit margins and poor practices when safety is involved. Not so much an issue in the States. And as far as the interiors go the airlines basically standardize their interiors so MAX, NG or classic the seat pitch and amenities will be almost identical across a fleet.

Westside Flyer February 28, 2022 - 1:40 pm

“A large factor in the MAX incidents was poor training for the flight crews. Both accidents were in 3rd world countries by airlines that have thin profit margins and poor practices when safety is involved.”

I’d like to point out that this was a deflection myth created by Boeing to shield themselves from the fact that MCAS was downing planes. In a recent documentary that came out, the captains of both downed planes were trained in the US yet Boeing pushed a PR narrative that they received shoddy training from their respective countries. It is true both airlines had poorer safety practices, but in a way to rectify their past mistakes, Lion Air actually emailed Boeing representatives about additional safety trainings for their new MAX aircraft and Boeing representatives emailed back that none was needed. In the end, the only one to truly blame for the MAX failures is Boeing alone.

Evan Evers February 28, 2022 - 7:36 am

No issues with the MAX. Flew it before it was grounded and several times after. It’s a very comfortable plane for my 5’6 179lb self! I love it!!

Edward Murphy February 28, 2022 - 8:39 am

If you’re more interested in safety then comfort you should be flying Frontier an Spirit. You’ll never see a Max on them.

Island Miler February 28, 2022 - 12:14 pm

We flew a Southwest MAX back in November of last year. The onboard experience is virtually identical and the literature does in fact indicate that it isn’t a NG. No biggie. Especially not for HNL-OGG

Simon February 28, 2022 - 1:11 pm

I have no concerns about the MAX. I too flew on it twice before it was removed from service. I agree with other comments that US training likely is better than training in many other nations.

Jack Keady February 28, 2022 - 4:09 pm

Blaming pilot training is a cheap shot. It was a lack of training for a faulty software system, nothing more

Marion February 28, 2022 - 5:03 pm

I work as a flight attendant. The max is no less comfortable than an 800 that has been retrofit with the newer seats. In fact find them more comfortable because it feels roomier. And also the head rests. It’s hard to tell the newest 800’s from the max even for a me lol. Except the bathroom doors and music to me, sets it apart as a max.

Timothy McBride March 3, 2022 - 3:14 am

Flew on the Max8 several times last year, via Southwest and I loved it. I have worked in aerospace for over 30 years, flown many times, but have never experienced the comfort, or quietness in the cabins the Max8 offers. Great planes!

JohnB February 28, 2022 - 5:10 pm

I flew the Max, on a couple United flights last year. I actually thought twice about it, but then realized that everyone is so focused on this aircraft, so I wrote it off. Gladly no issues!

Personthatwrites February 28, 2022 - 6:54 pm

The safety information card does in fact indicate a “MAX” on the safety card, when you’re actually on a MAX. Fact checking, or even a simple google search would’ve informed you that simple piece of information.

Nathaniel February 28, 2022 - 9:30 pm

you’re incorrect in that. not every airline identifies their max aircraft such as AA.

Mike M. February 28, 2022 - 8:18 pm

Been all over the world on the MAX with zero issues flown by US pilots. Very distinctive sound on startup for the LEAP engine. I haven’t noticed any level of discomfort during the flight.

Jordan February 28, 2022 - 8:46 pm

Just so you’re aware, the Southwest MAXs and newer -800s feature the exact same interiors. The interior on this -800 will be the same on the MAX 8s.

Emmett c Dykes March 2, 2022 - 4:10 pm

I was flying from Jan to Atl on Max but ended with a 800 series


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