A few tears were shed last week, as United Airlines ended more than 40 years of flying Boeing 737s.
Other airlines, however, such as Southwest and Jet Blue continue to use 737s as the backbone of their fleets.
Though the 737 and its assorted variations have been a real workhorse in the airline industry since it was introduced in 1967, when it comes to flying United, I won’t miss it. I also pretty much avoid Southwest and Jet Blue because of the 737.
The problem for me isn’t so much the plane, as the way it is being used – or mis-used – these days. Jet Blue, especially, uses them to fly coast to coast. That’s about like a cross-country trip in a Volkswagen bus. It seems to take forever.
The 737 is a great short-haul workhorse. But it is something of a fuel guzzler – compared to others choices available – and it is slow. On coast-to-coast runs, the 737 can easily take six or more hours.
A Boeing 747, by comparison, can make the same trip in four hours or less. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer 747s flying these days – I guess because the airlines don’t feel they can fill them.
A depressing number of 747s are mothballed out in the Mojave Desert at various jet storage facilities.
United said it was getting rid of 737s because they were becoming a maintenance headache. I wish they had been able to admit the 737 also isn’t very well suited to the needs of the flying public. I had hoped other airlines might follow suit. Maybe they still will.
So, adios to United’s 737s, and here’s to hoping one day, Los Angeles to New York fliers might be able to zip across the country again in four hours or less.
R.I.P., 737. Bring on a new generation of faster, cleaner, more economical commercial aircraft.
November 1, 2009