Like it or not, the 737 MAX is back in the skies, and if it isn’t near you yet – it will be soon. The plane continues the long history of the Boeing 737 as a short haul stalwart for airlines, and despite the plane’s horrific history, orders are still piling in.
For many, that leaves an unsavory taste in the mouth towards air travel, in a time when things are already pretty bitter. Here’s 10 ways to avoid flying in a Boeing 737 MAX, if you think you absolutely must.
Airlines Flying The 737 MAX
An easy way, for now, to avoid the 737-MAX is to figure out which airlines are flying the plane, and when. If you don’t want to fly it, the simplest solution would be to choose another airline. Here’s the airlines with firm orders, or letters of intent to fly the 737 MAX, many of which have already been delivered.
Aeromexico, American Airlines, Air China, Air Canada, China Eastern, China Southern, Copa, Ethiopian, Fiji Airways, FlyDubai, GOL, Hainan, Korean Air, Icelandair, IAG (likely for Vueling, Aer Lingus, Iberia), Lion Air, Malaysia Airlines, Norwegian, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, Southwest, SpiceJet, Turkish Airlines, TUI, United Airlines, VietJet, Virgin Australia, WestJet and Xiamen.
As you can see, it’s not going to be quite so easy to avoid this beleaguered plane, after all. Who are the biggest operators of the 737-MAX? The largest orders – aka the most planes to be delivered will go to: American, FlyDubai, United, Southwest, VietJet, Lion Air and Ryanair.
Many of these airlines are already readying their 737-MAX jets to re-enter service, and widespread MAX use is expected by the Spring and Summer of 2021.
Some airlines plan to conceal the ‘MAX’ part of the name, making the plane slightly harder to identify. However, a little bit of knowledge can help go a long way in avoiding the MAX, even with airlines which fly it. Though there are always going to be unique exceptions, the 737-MAX won’t tend to do much long haul flying.
If you’re flying Air Canada from Vancouver to London, or Qatar from Doha to Sydney, there’s virtually no chance you end up flying on a 737 MAX for the long haul trip so it’s hardly worth worrying about. If you have a short haul connection first, like Vancouver to Toronto, you may encounter it though. Basically, don’t fret for longer flights.
How To Physically Identifying The 737-MAX
There’s one fool proof way to identify the 737-MAX, and one good ‘guestimate’. The fool proof way is to look at the engines. If they look jazzy, like they’ve got special edges on the back side of the engine, it’s a MAX. These newer MAX engines have a serrated tooth, or flame like design on the back, much like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The other hint is the wingtips. A MAX wingtips will go both up and down, rather than just up, but some airlines fly a non-MAX variant which has a similar look, so it’s more of a guess. However, if it’s got the up and down wing tips, and you see teeth like serrated edge on the back of the engines, it’s a MAX.
Use Free Online Tools
Airlines do change up plans from time to time, but paying more attention to which aircraft your itinerary proposes in the first place helps. It should also give you more wiggle room, if your plane changes to a 737-MAX after you book.
If you’re searching on Google Flights, or with your favorite airline, look to see what plane the flight is operated by. Google Flights actually does a really excellent job of distinguishing between a standard 737, which has been around for decades, or the new 737-MAX.
Here’s an example from New York to Miami, which happens to be the first route American is flying the 737-MAX…
A big x-factor with avoiding the 737-MAX is that many flights you book today may swap to the MAX at a later date. Airlines such as Southwest in the USA have over 270 planes on order, with just 31 delivered. As deliveries roll in, they’ll need somewhere to fly, and many flights marked as a 737 or A320 today may change to a 737-MAX.
Airline Flexibility Policies
Due to this concern, some airlines are adding flexibility for people who end up with a 737-MAX, and aren’t too keen on the idea. American Airlines is allowing passengers to swap onto another flight, or if the destination is only served by the MAX, they’ll allow you to cancel for a credit in the full amount, or re-route to a destination with 300 miles.
Airlines are keen to make delivery of the 737-MAX a seamless experience, and for the near future that will mean accommodating passengers who wish to avoid it. Use these handy tools and visual clues to avoid booking, or ending up on a MAX if that’s how you feel, and don’t be afraid to ask an airline what they’re prepared to offer.
It’s expected that many will follow American’s footsteps, and allow travel on the next non-MAX flight, or a future travel credit, but eventually, the MAX will become one of the most visible and widely used airplanes in the sky, like it or not.
For reference, there are over 5,000 MAX aircraft on order, compared to under 2,000 Boeing 777’s delivered in the history of the entire 30 year program. There’s going to be a lot of these things flying, and though moral objections are totally valid, it should now be the safest plane ever to fly, given the additional testing and scrutiny.