How To Tell If You’re Flying On A Boeing 737 MAX

Posted Dec 11, 2020

Now that various civil aviation administrations are working on lifting the ban on the Boeing 737 MAX, some airlines will be able to once again operate the new type once the requirements of the issued Airworthiness Directives are met.

Airlines are very eager to get their grounded MAXs back in the air, but some travelers are still hesitant given its very rocky past. American Airlines is already hard at work prepping for its first MAX flight on December 29, 2020, and plans to host a number of public events to allow the public to get re-acquainted with the aircraft and those who operate and work on it. Meanwhile, GOL was able to take the title for the first commercial MAX flight since the grounding almost two years ago.

Some operators have already stated that once the new type returns, they will be offering customers the option to switch to other non-MAX flights if they do not feel comfortable, and will allow them to do so at no penalty.

Even as the various civil aviation agencies work to re-certify the MAX, it’s no surprise that some travelers may still feel skeptical about flying the new model. If you’re trying to avoid the MAX in the interim, but are not too familiar with identifying which aircraft the airlines will operate on your flight, here are some tips.

Information via booking website

One of the simplest ways to tell what aircraft you’re expected to fly on is by clicking the ‘details’ link associated with each flight leg. From there, you can see details such as the routing information, travel time, and most important, what aircraft type you’re expected to fly on. For those looking out for the MAX, expect variations such as:

  • Boeing 737 MAX 8
  • 737 MAX 8
  • 737 MAX
  • MAX 8
  • MAX
  • 7M8
  • 737-8

The above examples relate to the MAX 8, but similar should be expected for the -7, -9, and -10. Unfortunately there are not many live examples as most other airlines have not reloaded the new variant into their system yet.

In the mean time, here are some examples of MAX-based flights.

American Airlines

Google Flights

Kayak

GOL

If you’re booking your flight via Kayak, they have a specific filter which allows you to choose what type of aircraft you prefer to fly on (or not fly on). From their search list, you can simply deselect the MAX and leave the rest of the search options checked.

If you book flights well in advance, be sure to occasionally check your flight status to see if there are any last minute equipment changes.

Spot the difference

The MAX and previous NG (Next Generation) models such as the 737-800 have a number of distinguishing features, but they may not be immediately apparent unless you know what to look for. There are however two very easy ways to pick them apart.

Winglets

Unlike the 737NG which have blended winglets that curve up from the edge of the wing tip, the MAX features a new winglet system called “Advanced Technology” (AT) winglets. The AT winglets feature two laminar flow blades which project up and down at a very roughly estimated 100 to 120 degree angle from the end of the wing.

MAX Advanced Technology (AT) Winglet

MAX Advanced Technology Winglet. Photo: Oleg V. Belyakov/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

NG Blended Winglet

The traditional NG winglet features a single curved fin device that faces up.

737 NG blended winglet: Photo: Dtom/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

NG Split Scimitar Winglet

The more advanced split scimitar system is a modification of the traditional winglet, but features a scimitar on the top of the upward facing fin, as well as an additional downward facing fin with scimitar on the edge as well.

The split scimitars could be quite confusing as they somewhat resemble the MAX’s AT winglets, but they’re easily distinguishable by the fact that the AT winglets have sharp cut edges, while the split scimitars have a sword-like curved edge. Also, the smaller fin on the split scimitar is attached to the mid-section of the lower portion of the larger upward facing fin, while both fins on the AT system join at the same point at the edge of the wing.

Scimitar Winglet. Photo: Mnts/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Engines

The 737 MAX feature CFM LEAP-1B engines and can be distinguished by their larger overall size, more rounded air intake, curved blades, and chevrons (the saw-tooth edges) of the exhaust section of the engine.

MAXs larger CFM LEAP engines with chevrons

Photo: Snecma (Safran)

Photo: GE Aviation

CFM56-7B engine featured on 737 NG models

The smaller CFM56 has a smaller profile, oval air intake, and does not feature chevrons on the trailing edge. The leading edge of the blades are much straighter than those on the LEAP engines featured on the MAX.

The MAX also features a pointed-style tail cone (similar to the Boeing 787), while the 737 NG’s tail cone has a shorter and somewhat stubbier appearance. However in many cases, as most aircraft are parked at a jet bride, it would be hard to see the cone from the terminal side.

[Featured Photo: SounderBruce/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)]

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