Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX Is A Passenger’s Dream — If You Have to Fly Coach

Earlier this past week, my work required that I fly to Omaha for a night. While I had my fingers crossed that I would be booked on a connecting flight operated by either American or Delta, I ended up being booked on a non-stop flight operated by Southwest Airlines. While many travelers dread airlines like Frontier and Spirit, my least favorite airline is Southwest. I certainly wasn’t thrilled knowing I would have to fly my least favorite airline however, I managed to put a positive spin on the short hour-long flights.

With a new optimistic view on the upcoming flights, I decided to view it as an opportunity to give Southwest another chance. To make the situation even more enjoyable, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that my flight to Omaha was operated by one of Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 8s.

Southwest Airlines at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport

Southwest Airlines at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport

The Boeing 737 MAXs Bad Rap

Unfortunately for Boeing, the aircraft manufacture’s new flagship narrow-body has received quite a bit of negative press. This is primarily due to how the aircraft’s customers have decided to configure the next generation 737. While airlines including Air Canada and Fly Dubai are finally fitting the Boeing 737 MAX with new more luxurious interiors, most operators thus far have configured the Boeing 737 MAX in rather uncomfortable layouts.

One notable example that has aided in the Boeing 737 MAX receiving negative marks from passengers and the media is American Airlines’ decision to treat the aircraft as a workhorse with the airline’s new cost-saving “Oasis” interior. While American Airlines decided to make some changes including ditching 29″ pitch in the last few rows, American’s 737 MAXs still featuring cost-cutting features including much smaller lavatories, slim-line seats, less legroom, and no seatback in-flight entertainment. Other airlines including United, Norwegian Air, and various Asian low-cost carriers have similar cabin interiors.

While passengers might be quick to avoid select airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX, it should be noted that not all 737 MAXs are created equal—on the inside that is.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX at Omaha-Eppley Airport

Southwest Upgrades Its Cabin Interior with The Boeing 737 MAX 8

Southwest unveiled the airlines’ new cabin interior, known as the Heart interior, back in 2016. The airline plans to retrofit all of its aircraft with the interior in the coming years. While only a handful of Boeing 737-800 and 737-700 feature the Heart interior, all Boeing 737 MAX 8s feature the interior from delivery. Some passengers were initially concerned regarding the new interior given the trend of airline gutting amenities and cutting legroom. However, I’m happy to report that this is not a concern for passengers flying on Southwest.

Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 8 features a super modern and airy cabin. Though by no means a premium interior, the 737 MAX 8 feels cleaner and more passenger-centric from the moment you step on-board. That is because, in short, Southwest was one of the few US airlines to actually make improvements to the passenger experience with the arrival of its new Boeing 737 MAX.

 


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Breaking Down the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Heart Interior

The first thing all passengers will likely notice is the stylish new mood-lit cabin interior. While Southwest Airlines features Boeing’s Sky Interior on a variety of 737s, the 737 MAX 8 is the first aircraft to feature a more widespread application of mood-lighting for the airline. Cabin attendants also have the ability to customize the color and brightness. Upon boarding, I was delighted to see the glowing orange-red ring emitting from the ceiling and the deep blue-purple light overhead passenger seats. The cabin also seemed larger and less stuffy than Southwest’s older Boeing 737s.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Cabin Overview

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Cabin Overview

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Cabin at Boarding

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 Cabin at Boarding

For Comparison: Standard Southwest Boeing 737 NG Cabin

For Comparison: Standard Southwest Boeing 737 NG Cabin

As with all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, Southwest’s 737 MAX 8 boasts Boeing’s new space-bins. Though overhead bin space wasn’t an issue on my flight, the larger bins weren’t noticeably larger than those found on 737 NG-BSI (next generation and Boeing Sky Interior) aircraft.

The seats feature far less padding than older 737s featuring Southwest’s original cabin interior. This is an industry-wide trend. Though the seats were noticeably slimmer, they weren’t any less or more comfortable.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Seating

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Seating

For Comparison: Standard Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 NG Seating

For Comparison: Standard Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 NG Seating

Thanks to the slim-line seating, Southwest was able to avoid compromising passenger legroom. The pitch on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is identical to that found on the airline’s Boeing 737-800s at 32-33 inches. I ended up nabbing seat 16F which, along with seat 16A, features by far the most legroom onboard both the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 737-800. Though I was seated in 16F, the legroom found at seat 16E wasn’t awful and actually fairly comfortable.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Legroom at 16F

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Legroom at 16F

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Standard Legroom

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Standard Legroom

For Comparison: Standard Southwest Boeing 737 NG Legroom

For Comparison: Standard Southwest Boeing 737 NG Legroom

While Southwest has never featured seatback in-flight entertainment or even drop-down monitors, the airline does feature Wi-Fi. Southwest offers satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi on the majority of its flights. Satellite-based Wi-Fi is the fastest in-flight Wi-Fi available. I didn’t do anything particularly data-heavy during the flight, however, I didn’t notice any lag during my browsing session. Southwest also offers streaming entertainment and live TV though I did not test out either option.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Wi-Fi appears very reliable and blazing fast

Where Southwest did drop the ball was in failing to install power outlets on its Boeing 737 MAXs. These aircraft could potentially be used on flights to Hawaii in the near future. This means that passengers will have to juice up their devices and budget use to ensure they last the entirety of the five-hour flight. I don’t have an issue with an airline deciding to not install seatback monitors. I do take issue when an airline fails to install adequate power outlets on new and reconfigured aircraft.

Both of my flights were under an hour in-flight and just a little over an hour gate-to-gate. That said, I can’t see Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAXs being problematic on any flight rather it’s a one-hour hop or five-hour flight to Honolulu.

Southwest might want to also consider a buy-on-board menu for longer flights!


Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 8 / Final Thoughts

The negative perception of an entire fleet of aircraft is almost entirely thanks to media hype and speculation. I’ve heard quite a few positive remarks about both American Airlines’ and United’s 737 MAXs with positive remarks outnumbering negative comments. Southwest Airlines was no stranger to speculation when renderings of the 737 MAX 8 were first released. After flying Southwest’s newest Boeing 737, my perception of the entire airline actually changed. The airy and modern interiors combined with super-fast Wi-Fi make for an upgraded and even enjoyable coach experience.

Have you flown on any Boeing 737 MAXs yet? What do you think of Southwest’s new Heart cabin interior?

View of Downtown Clayton, MO during climb out out St. Louis-Lambert International Airport

View of Downtown Clayton, MO during climb out St. Louis-Lambert International Airport