Like a proud parent, Southwest Airlines showed off the newest addition to its fleet, the Boeing 737 MAX 8, to hundreds of employees at its hangar at Dallas Love Field on Friday.
“It flies further and uses less fuel and with this great interior it is better than any airplane we have on property,” said Southwest’s chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven.
He added that the new plane can fly 300 to 500 miles farther than any aircraft Southwest currently has in its fleet. “It gives us better nonstop opportunities for our customers.”
Van de Ven said Southwest will conduct operational testing on the new plane before it begins service in late 2017. The Dallas-based carrier plans to use the 737 MAX to replace older Classic Boeing 737-300s which are being retired.
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The aircraft is the first MAX version of the popular 737 airplane manufactured by Boeing. The single-aisle plane features CFM International LEAP-1B engines that make it 14 percent more fuel-efficient than the current 737-800s on the market.
“It burns less fuel, requires less maintenance, produces less noise and produces less emissions than any engine in our fleet,” Van de Ven said.
The 737 MAX also includes a new “heart” cabin decor with galley spaces designed by Southwest’s flight attendants and provisioning agents. The new design resolves issues that Southwest has had with the 737-800 which did not have enough room in the galley for beverage carts.
“They were able to create compartments to move things around to make it easier for them to do their jobs,” said Steve Jenkinson, Southwest’s program manager on the Boeing 737 MAX, noting that the two coffee pots in the rear galley are on opposite sides for easier access. “They can easily work without tripping over themselves or each other.”
The 737 MAX 8 also has the new “bold blue” seat manufactured by B/E Aerospace ,with seating for 175, the same as on Southwest’s Boeing 737-800. The carrier also has placed orders for the 737 MAX 7, which will have 150 seats, Van de Ven said.
In June, Southwest announced plans to postpone delivery of 67 Boeing 737 aircraft, which allowed it to move $1.9 billion of airplane costs past the year 2020.
Southwest is the launch customer for Boeing’s 737 MAX just as it was for the 737-300, 737-500 and 737-700 models. The airline exclusively flies 737s in its fleet.