How to Tell If You’re Flying on a Boeing 737 MAX in North America
The Boeing 737 MAX is the latest generation in the 52-year storied history of the Boeing 737. While it’s hailed by Boeing as a game-changer for airlines in reliability, efficiency and passenger comfort, two crashes of the new aircraft type in the past five months are causing passengers — and some flight attendants — to wonder about the safety of the new aircraft type.
While Beijing has asked Chinese airlines to ground all 737 MAX aircraft as of Sunday night, US carriers are yet to follow suit. So, we looked at the largest operators of the Boeing 737 MAX here in North America to see what options passengers have in response to multiple TPG readers having reached out to ask what can be done if they’re booked on a Boeing 737 MAX flight. The airlines told us that they stand behind the aircraft’s safety but plan to monitor the investigation into Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Update: The Boeing 737 MAX has now been grounded in the US
And Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents the cabin crews at American Airlines, said “this event has raised safety concerns” for her members. The union is currently in a contract dispute with the airline.
The nation’s largest pilots’ union, however, asked passengers to let the investigators do their work before jumping to conclusions. “We caution against speculation about what may have caused this tragic accident,” the Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement.
Airlines generally won’t let passengers change flights because of fears over what aircraft they are on without paying a hefty fee. However, you can avoid booking new flights on this jet type, if you are concerned.
But before we get to that, here’s a quick look at the largest Boeing 737 MAX operators today, according to AirFleets and their current status:
|Airline||Aircraft in Service||Status|
|Southwest||34||Airline released statement of confidence in safety. Now grounded.|
|American Airlines||24||Airline released statement of confidence in safety. Now grounded.|
|Air Canada||24||Airline released statement of confidence in safety. Now grounded.|
|United||14||Airline released statement of confidence in safety. Now grounded.|
|Lion Air||13||10 in Indonesia fleet are grounded, 3 in Thai Lion Air fleet grounded later.|
Southwest was supposed to be the launch customer of the 737 MAX, but ended up having to settle for being the first North American operator of the new aircraft type. Southwest has safely operated the 737 MAX since its first flights in October 2017 and currently operates a fleet of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8.
Southwest said in a statement that “we have been in contact with Boeing and will continue to stay close to the investigation as it progresses. We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft.” Southwest’s entire fleet is made up of different variants of the Boeing 737.
The airline has “not changed any of our policies or restrictions based on this incident.”
TPG spoke with long-time airline journalist Seth Kaplan who was able to analyze Southwest scheduling data through Diio Mi. He found that the most common routes that Southwest operates the 737 MAX are currently:
- Las Vegas (LAS) – Houston Hobby (HOU)
- Washington Dulles (IAD) – Denver (DEN)
- Milwaukee (MKE) – Phoenix (PHX)
- Nashville (BNA) – Phoenix (PHX)
- Dallas Love Field (DAL) – Denver (DEN)
- Denver (DEN) – Sacramento (SMF)
In order to see if your flight is operated by a Boeing 737 MAX, you can click on the flight number in the flight search results to see the aircraft type assigned to the flight:
The world’s largest airline was the second US airline to take delivery of the Boeing 737 MAX and currently operates 24 of the aircraft type. While the aircraft hasn’t made many fans due to its dense configuration, it’s operated safely for American Airlines since its inaugural flight in November 2017.
Shortly after the Lion Air crash, the airline released a statement that it has “not had similar issues regarding an erroneous Angle of Attack during manual flight.” On follow-up today, the airline confirmed that this is still the case.
Regarding the Ethiopian Airlines crash, American Airlines has provided the following statement to TPG:
American Airlines extends our condolences to the families and friends of those on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. At this time there are no facts on the cause of the accident other than news reports. Our Flight, Flight Service, Tech Ops and Safety teams, along with the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), will closely monitor the investigation in Ethiopia, which is our standard protocol for any aircraft accident. American continues to collaborate with the FAA and other regulatory authorities, as the safety of our team members and customers is our number one priority.
For passengers that are adamant about avoiding the MAX, here Kaplan also analyzed American Airlines scheduling data through Diio Mi for TPG. The most common current routes are:
- Miami (MIA) – New York LaGuardia (LGA)
- Miami (MIA) – Boston (BOS)
- Miami (MIA) – Bridgetown, Barbados (BGI)
- Miami (MIA) – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS)
- Miami (MIA) – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (SDQ)
- Miami (MIA) – Orlando (MCO)
American Airlines lists the aircraft operating the flight directly in the search results:
Air Canada is tied with American Airlines for the second-largest 737 MAX fleet. The Canadian flag carrier currently has 24 in its fleet with a firm order for 61 aircraft to be delivered by 2021. It has safely operated its fleet of 737 MAX aircraft since taking delivery of its first in November 2017.
An Air Canada spokesperson provided a statement to TPG, which reads in part:
These aircraft have performed excellently from a safety, reliability as well as from a safety perspective, and we continue to operate this aircraft as per our schedule.
The most common current routes that Air Canada operates the 737 MAX are:
- Vancouver (YVR) – Calgary (YYC)
- Vancouver (YVR) – Honolulu (HNL)
- Montréal (YUL) – Los Angeles (LAX)
- Vancouver (YVR) – Kahului, Maui (OGG)
- Montréal (YUL) – San Francisco (SFO)
- Vancouver (YVR) – Montréal (YUL)
In order to check the aircraft type operating a flight, you need to click the “details” link under the flight option in the search results:
While most North American airlines ordered and are operating the Boeing 737 MAX 8 type, United didn’t order any MAX 8s. Instead, it ordered 36 Boeing 737 MAX 9 and 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft and currently operates 14 MAX 9 aircraft.
United said that “the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is safe and that our pilots are properly trained to fly the MAX aircraft safely.”
United currently operates the most 737 MAX flights on the following routes:
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH) – Los Angeles (LAX)
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH) – Orlando (MCO)
- Los Angeles (LAX) – Kahului, Maui (OGG)
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH) – San Francisco (SFO)
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH) – San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL)
- Houston Intercontinental (IAH) – Boston (BOS)
To see if a United flight is operated by the Boeing 737 MAX, select the “details” drop down in the search results:
The low-cost Canadian airline WestJet is also one of the largest operators of the Boeing 737 MAX in North America with 13 aircraft already operating and a total of 55 ordered.
TPG didn’t receive a response to a request for comment by time of publishing.
WestJet operates the 737 MAX on the following routes:
- Calgary (YYC) – Vancouver (YVR)
- Vancouver (YVR) – Toronto (YYZ)
- Calgary (YYC) – Las Vegas (LAS)
- Calgary (YYC) – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (PVR)
- Calgary (YYC) – Los Cabos, Mexico (SJD)
- Toronto (YYZ) – Cancun (CUN)
In order to check if a WestJet flight is operated by a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, click the “flight details” link under the flight in the search results:
In addition to the US-based Boeing 737 MAX operators, we also reached out to Norwegian. Between Norwegian Air International (9), Norwegian Air Shuttle (6) and Norwegian Air Sweden (3), the airline group operates 18 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft — with service across the Atlantic to some US destinations.
An airline spokesperson passed along a statement from Tomas Hesthammer, Norwegian’s Director of Flight Operations, that reads in part:
All of our Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are operating as normal and we are in close dialogue with Boeing and follow their instructions and recommendations. Our passengers’ safety is and will always be our top priority.
AeroMexico operates a fleet of six Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, but plans to grow its 737 MAX fleet to at least the 60 it has on firm order. While we don’t have detailed schedule of AeroMexico routes, the six aircraft in AeroMexico’s 737 MAX fleet are scheduled to operating on the following routes in the next few days:
- Mexico City (MEX) – Monterrey (MTY)
- Mexico City (MEX) – Lima (LIM)
- Mexico City (MEX) – Bogota (BOG)
- Mexico City (MEX) – Los Angeles (LAX)
To see if an AeroMexico flight is operated by a 737 MAX, click the “details” link in the flight search results and check the aircraft type under the flight number:
COPA currently has a small fleet of six Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft with a firm order of a total of 61 MAX aircraft. While most airlines are ordering the MAX 8 type, COPA has firm orders for 41 MAX 9 and 15 MAX 10 aircraft with another 5 aircraft to be determined.
We don’t have detailed schedule of COPA’s 737 MAX routes. However, COPA’s 737 MAX fleet has been operating on the following routes across the past few days:
- Panama City (PTY) – San Francisco (SFO)
- Panama City (PTY) – Buenos Aires (EZE)
- Panama City (PTY) – Los Angeles (LAX)
- Panama City (PTY) – Cartagena (CTG)
- Panama City (PTY) – Miami (MIA)
COPA shows the aircraft operating a flight directly in the search results under the flight times:
For more information, read what industry experts have to say about whether or not the Boeing 737 MAX is safe to fly. Plus TPG‘s full coverage of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash and aftermath:
- Boeing Cancels 777X Event Following Second 737 MAX Crash
- China Grounds 737 MAX Aircraft
- The Striking Similarities Between Lion Air and Ethiopian 737 MAX Crashes
- Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Crashes After Takeoff from Addis Ababa (Update)
Featured image courtesy of Boeing.
This article has been updated since publishing to include information on AeroMexico and COPA.