World’s Most Popular Plane but I am not a fan 

The 737 concept first hit the drawing boards  back in 1964 and is now the world’s most popular aircraft having carried more than 22 billion people since that time. Right now, there is a 737 taking off or landing every one and a half seconds.

Boeing handed over the 10,000th Boeing 737 ever made  to US Carrier Southwest Airlines (the world’s biggest 737  operator) this week. The event cemented their Guinness World record  for the most produced commercial jet, a distinction it has had  since  2006:

Boeing says there are now about 4,645 of the Boeing 737 in service with 2,800 in the air at any one time. It is the most popular “narrow body” (plane with only one aisle) ever.

The only issue is that the 737 is not popular with me. I have squeezed aboard the plane  377* times with 33 airlines taking me to 97 airports across 22 countries on five continents. (I have never flown the 737 in Africa). I have never made any secret of my ambivalence toward the 737 despite my many hours on them and the overwhelming number produced. As a passenger I have never been sure why? Is it the noise levels compared to the Airbus 320? That a 757 feels more spacious. Or the rough way the 737 appears to touch down. All I know is my heart sinks when I know I am booking on a 737.

a map of the united states with lines and points

My 737 flights across the USA from my


a map of the world with red lines and points

Some of my global 737 routings (not all of the European flights fitted) from Great Circle Mapper

The 737 concept started as a 60 passenger plane with a 1,600km (1,000mi) range. At one point, Boeing considered selling the design off. They are probably very glad they didn’t as the 737 has helped the company’s cash flow for 50 years! Like Star Trek, there have been several “generations” of the plane:

737 Original series-Produced 1967 to 1988

  • B737-100: entered airline service in February 1968 with Lufthansa. Maximum Passengers: 124. Just 30 delivered
  • B737-200: with an extended fuselage,  entered service in April 1968 with United Airlines. Maximum Pax: 136. 1013 delivered

Boeing 737 Classic- Produced from 1984 to 2000

  • B737-300: entered service in December 1984 with USAir, Maximum Pax: 140. 1,113 aircraft were delivered.
  • B737-400: 1988 with Piedmont, 188 pax, 486 delivered
  • B737-500: 1990, 132 pax. 389 delivered

737 Next Generation

  • B737-600:  1998, maximum: 149 pax Just 69 delivered
  • B737-700: 1997, max: 149 pax, 1126 delivered
  • B737-800: 1997,  Launch customer: Hapag-Lloyd of Germany, 189 pax, A massive 4,749 delivered so far
    a white airplane parked at an airport

    JAL B737-800 JA 331J taking me from Tokyo to Hiroshima    Interior below;

    a man taking a selfie in an airplane

  • B737-900: 2000 with Alaska Airlines as launch customer, 215 pax, 497 delivered so far

737 MAX

  • 737 MAX 7: Expected Southwest Airlines in January 2019, maximum 138 pax
  • 737 MAX 8: May 22, 2017, Malindo Air was the launch customer
  • 737 MAX 200, expected to fly 2019 with Ryanair, a massive 737 customer being the first cab off the rank
  • 737 MAX 9, will launch 2018 with Indonesia’s Lion Air.

Over 4,600 of the Boeing 737 are still on order.  The company aims to increase its monthly production from 47 to 52-almost two a day. The order books stretch eight years.

On a more sombre note, sixty 737s have been involved in fatal crashes since the first crash landing on December 8, 1972  when United Airlines Flight 553, a 737-200 registration N9031U, crashed while attempting to land at Chicago Midway International Airport. Two people on the ground and 43 of the 61 passengers and crew on board were killed. The deadliest crash involving a 737 was Air India Express Flight 812 on 22 May 2010  when the  737-800 overshot the runway on landing at Mangaluru ran over a cliff, and caught fire. There were 158 fatalities. Considering 737s have flown more than 122 billion miles, the equivalent of five million times around Earth, 60 fatal accidents seems a very small percentage.

How many times have you flown in a 737? Do you like the aircraft? If not, which is your favorite narrow bodied aircraft?

a view of the wing of an airplane

A Virgin Australia 737 traveling into sunset.

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  1. I’m also not a fan of the 737 either. Being in the US, I’ve flown Southwest over 100 times, hence I’ve flown my fair share of 737s. After a while, it became quite boring. Back in the 90’s there was a small wonderful airline mostly flying in the Western US called Reno Air and flew them a good number of times on their MD-80’s. Miss flying on the old Mad Dogs, they were my favorite, quiet up front but if you want the engine noise, you could sit all the way in the back for that.

  2. Concur. Unless I’m up front in a 2-2 F configuration I dislike flying the cramped/tight 737. I prefer the A320. Boeing has milked the 737 program for too long. But, hey, if the airlines are still buying…Actually, recall, that Boeing did not want to really do a 737-MAX, but wanted to wait until the early to mid 2020s to have a new aircraft to replace it. But AA, with their massive 400 plus aircraft order put Boeing in the spot where they had to do the MAX or lose out to Airbus completely on that order and subsequent ones. So, expect to see the narrow tube in the skies for the next 40 years, 2060 or even to 2080. The 7(9)7 program is about to be announced. Will be interesting to see if that design will have a wider body.

  3. The 737 is the default domestic plane, nothing real special. The only time I’ve ever been excited to board a 737 is because it was the Southwest inaugural flight for the Max.

  4. Not sure why my previous comment was not published. I am not a fan of 737’s either. Flew Southwest over 100 times from their 200’s through the 800’s. Gets the job done but a boring. Missed flying on the MD-80’s with Reno Air when they flew back in the 90’s. Best experience on a narrow body with both quiet front or engine rattling experience in the back.

  5. I’m not a fan of the 737. The 3×3 seating was never a winner with me, given the requirement to make the seats quite narrow, and making it larger and longer range in every new incarnation just makes for longer flights in unfavorable seating that take more time to board and deplane. Although I’ve never been much of a MD fan overall, the DC-9 has always been a huge winner for me, since there are at least fewer middle seats.

  6. The Boeing 737 or the Airbus A-320? Like someone said, I do not like 3 x 3 configurations. Looking forward to the day they stretch the fuselage to get the same load capacity but with 2 x 2 seating.

  7. Totally agree. I do not really like narrow bodies but it is hard to escape from them. But in any case the 319/320/321 are vastly superior to 737’s in terms of comfort. Especially noise levels on all Airbus types are way lower.
    To me the difference between Boeing and Airbus is similar to the difference between US and European cars. Massive difference in comfort and driving behavior.

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