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Southwest Airlines Community

Before the 737

Aviator C

I’ve been immersed in the Southwest archives the past few months, and have found some interesting stuff from our early days.  From time to time, I will be sharing some of this with you.

It is no secret that one of the reasons for Southwest Airlines’ success over the years has been our simplified fleet of Boeing 737s.  Only twice in our 37+ year history have we strayed away from Boeing’s twin-engine champ, and that was on the two occasions we supplemented our fleet with the Boeing 727.  (I found some exciting photos of the interiors of the 727, and once we get the slides scanned, I will share.)

When we started service on June 18, 1971, the 737 was a logical choice for our routes between the cities of the “Texas Triangle,” Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas.  The 737-200 model was ideal for our then shorthaul route structure.  But as many students of Southwest know, we tried to get airborne four years earlier in 1967, under the name Air Southwest.  The 1960s were a revolutionary time for airliners.  At the time Air Southwest was hoping to take flight, the very first 737s and DC-9s were rolling off the delivery lines destined for established carriers like Delta, Lufthansa, United, and Continental.  American and Braniff had opted for the British shorthaul jet, the BAC-111.  There really weren’t any shorthaul jets available for a new startup airline, so what to do.

American was retiring the Electras which had been used on short routes until the delivery of the BAC-111s, and Air Southwest intended to operate some of these second-hand airplanes.  Well, as events unfolded, it would take another four years of fighting legal challenges from Braniff and Texas International before  Air Southwest could finally take flight as Southwest Airlines.  At least when we did get airborne, it was with brand new 737s.

Anyway, take a look below at what might have been: