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A Southwest 737 MAX in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Southwest Set to Start 737 MAX Return-to-Service on March 11 in 15 Cities

Two years after the Boeing 737 MAX was first grounded on March 10, 2019, Southwest Airlines — the largest U.S. operator of the type — is ready to fly it again. This week, the carrier will relaunch the MAX to 15 of its key cities across the United States, including popular tourist destinations in Florida and the Midwest.

According to Cirium schedules, Southwest will begin with 32 routes on March 11 and expand to 46 by the end of the month.

Initial MAX Flights on March 11

March 11 will be the first time Southwest flies the 737 MAX again after its grounding in 2019. The carrier will begin with 32 routes to 13 cities in its network. The routes include:

To get ready for MAX operations, Southwest has put its mechanics, pilots, and flight attendants through additional training to ensure the aircraft is safe to fly. Many of these flights will kick off during the morning of March 11 with the earliest being from Denver to Chicago Midway departing at 7:00 a.m. MT.

The company’s CEO Gary Kelly explained the pilot training in a recent statement, “Before we return the aircraft to customer service, however, every active Southwest Pilot will complete additional FAA-required flight training in one of our nine 737 MAX simulators and will complete additional FAA-required computer-based training covering MAX procedures. Southwest will also require active Pilots to re-take our original 737 MAX 8 computer-based differences training as a refresher to complement the FAA-required training. Additionally, Southwest will conduct multiple readiness flights on each of our 34 MAX aircraft and complete thousands of hours of work, inspections, and the software updates before any of our Customers board a Southwest 737 MAX.”

Southwest’s 737 MAX 8 flares before landing at Love Field (Photo: Josh Smith)

Kelly also said that he is confident Southwest will be able to safely fly the MAX to the FAA’s standards and that he and many other employees would fly on the aircraft before it is put back into passenger service.

Additional March Flying

After the March 11 launch date, Southwest will add 14 more routes to its network by the end of the month. These include:

“After conducting more than 200 737 MAX 8 Readiness Flights since December without Customers onboard, Southwest Airlines will return the aircraft to service on March 11. Initially, the aircraft will operate up to 32 flights per day to 15 cities. By mid-April, the airplane will resume operations throughout Southwest’s network. The Southwest Team looks forward to welcoming Customers back onboard the 737 MAX, and we invite them to learn more about our plans by visiting www.southwest.com/737MAX,” a Southwest spokesman added in a statement to AirlineGeeks regarding the MAX’s initial flying schedule.

It is expected that some flyers may be wary about flying on the MAX. Fortunately, Southwest is offering free changes to a non-MAX flight through May 31. Passengers need to contact the airline to make the change, and the new flight must be within three days of the original flight’s departure date.

This story was updated on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 3:31 p.m. ET to fix a numbering error.

Taylor Rains
Taylor Rains
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