This is what 5 hours on a Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 is like

This is what 5 hours on a Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 is like

My sincerest apologies to those of you who clicked on this review hoping to see how new and exciting the Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 experience is.

Basically, the interior of the Southwest MAX 8 is exactly the same as the interiors of most of the other aircraft in the fleet – right down to the very noticeable lack of power outlets. How are they even getting away with that in 2023?

That said, this isn’t going to be like any other Southwest Airlines review that you’ve ever read. The destination is a doozie – and one you are definitely going to want to stick around for.

San Diego, CA (SAN) – Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Monday, February 6, 2023
Aircraft: 737 MAX 8
Registration: N1807U
Duration: 5 hours 21 minutes
Seat: 7A (Business Select)

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 (N1807U) side view
Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 (N1807U) side view illustration by
WN2230 flight track
Our route from SAN to HNL today as WN2230.

The video

I’ve made videos about the Southwest Airlines flight experience before. However, the decision to do it again for this flight was made easy by the fact that the destination was Honolulu. I mean, how could I not make a video about that?

My full review of Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 Business Select from San Diego to Honolulu

The star of this review (by far) will be the destination. Yes, the pros and cons of flying Southwest Airlines to Hawaii are significant, but for now, let’s focus on the 737 MAX 8…

Arrival at Terminal 1 at the San Diego International Airport

If you didn’t know, Southwest Airlines operates out of Terminal 1 at SAN. It’s the smallest (and suckiest) terminal at this airport (for now), so you need to time your arrival just right.

Terminal 1 exterior San Diego airport
Welcome to Terminal 1 at SAN. I don’t normally like coming over to this side of the airport, but I am willing to suffer through it for the opportunity to go to Hawaii.
SANspotter at terminal 1 entrance San Diego airport
BTW, there’s not much I wouldn’t do for a trip to Hawaii. Let’s freakin’ do this!

A friendly word of warning: arriving at T1 too early will have you bored to tears. Arriving to late will have you feeling happy as hell that you didn’t have to wait very long to board the flight. Basically, the closer you cut it, the better.

Southwest Airlines entrance terminal 1 SAN
This nice pic of the Southwest Airlines entrance here at T1 might lead you to believe I was working hard to get good content for this review. The truth is that I wasn’t ready to go inside yet.
Southwest Airlines check in and baggage drop area SAN
The lure of Hawaii eventually got me through the doors though. Here’s the Southwest check in / baggage drop area.
Terminal 1 San Diego Airport inside
10 minutes later, and I’m in. Now do you understand why I was procrastinating? T1 here at SAN ain’t no picnic (and it appears that the guy in the wheelchair would be willing to back me up on this).
Terminal 1 SAN seating area
Chanting “I’m going to Hawaii, I’m going to Hawaii” over and over again certainly helped to liven the mood.
San Diego airport new terminal 1 construction
In all seriousness, an all new Terminal 1 is currently under construction, and I’m actually going to miss this old building once they tear it down. No lie!
SANspotter selfie terminal 1 SAN Southwest Airlines gates
Oh, and guess what? I seems as if I have found my brother from another mother.

The boarding process for flight number 2230 to Honolulu

For the record, this was my second attempt at flying on a Southwest 737 MAX 8. The first time was just over a year ago on a flight from San Diego to Las Vegas. They swapped in a 737-800 right at the last minute, and it really ticked me off. Today was redemption day!

Southwest Airlines 737 max 8 N1807U San Diego Airport
There she is. N1807U is the MAX 8 chosen for Honolulu duty today.
Southwest Airlines Honolulu boarding pass
I still can’t believe that flying to Honolulu on Southwest Airlines is a thing. El Paso I get, but Honolulu is really hard to wrap my head around.
Southwest Airlines gate 7 San Diego airport
So how does this work exactly? Would I look like too much of an impatient spaz if I take my spot in line before they announce the start of the boarding process?

I was the third person in line to board thanks to the fact that I paid for a Business Select upgrade (and my lightning-fast online check-in the day before). Getting a good spot in line for the boarding process is one of the main reasons why I think paying more for Business Select is worth it.

Southwest Airlines A boarding group gate 7 SAN
I did it! I resisted the temptation to take my spot at A03 until the gate agent announced for everyone in the A group to take their spot in line. The struggle was beyond real.
Southwest Airlines gate 7 jet bridge SAN
“Heigh ho, Heigh ho, it’s off to Honolulu I go…”
Southwest 737 MAX 8 engine and wing
< Jedi mind trick > The MAX 8 is a perfectly safe aircraft, and no, the engines are not too large for the wings < /Jedi mind trick >
Southwest 737 MAX 8 boarding door
Dang it! I’m supposed to be excited about going to Hawaii, but I’m now I’m filled with anxiety about the flawed aerodynamic characteristics of the MAX 8. I’m such an idiot.

My first impressions of the Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8 seats

Southwest is so good with fleet consistency and commonality that boarding the MAX 8 felt like boarding any other recently-configured aircraft in their fleet. The seats are blue, vinyl clad, and not all that comfortable if I’m being honest. Yup, it’s the same bare-bones experience you read about in my Southwest 737-700 review.

Southwest 737 MAX 8 interior
It’s open seating on Southwest Airlines, and you can take any one you want. Choices, choices!
Southwest 737 MAX 8 seat 7F
I already know that the Southwest 737 MAX 8 exit row seats are good, but…seat 7F seems to be calling my name this morning. I’ll take it!
Southwest 737 MAX 8 seats
Say what you will about Southwest Airlines (it’s even ok to use profanity if you want), but it’s hard to disagree with the fact that the seats (and overall interior) of the MAX 8 looks fantastic. This is a huge improvement over the old baby **** brown interior.
Southwest 737 MAX 8 leg room
Leg room is fine.
Southwest 737 MAX 8 seat pitch
What the heck. Since I’m in a good mood today, I’ll even go as far as declaring it “mighty fine.”
Southwest 737 MAX 8 adjustable headrests
There are even adjustable headrests!
Southwest 737 MAX 8 seating
For the record, decent leg room and adjustable headrests don’t make me feel any better about the open seating thing here on Southwest. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point my middle finger in their general direction about that.
Southwest 737 MAX 8 cabin
“Ladies and gentlemen, the forward boarding door has now been closed. To the guy sitting in seat 7F…”
SANspotter selfie Southwest 737 MAX 8
“…could you look any less excited about the fact that you have an empty seat next to you for a 5 and a half hour flight out to Honolulu today?” 

The departure out of San Diego

It had been a while since I had a seat on the right hand side of the aircraft for a departure out of San Diego.

However, past experiences taught me that it’s the side you want to sit on when flying out to Hawaii. You won’t have a sun beating down on you for the entire flight, and you also get a really nice view of Oahu during the descent. #themoreyouknow

Southwest 737 MAX 8 pushing back from gate SAN
It’s true: pushing back for HNL is a lot more fun than pushing back for ATL. Just sayin’.
Southwest 737 max 8 taxi to runway 27 San Diego airport
This was supposed to be an attempt to show you what it was like to taxi out to runway 27 this morning, but…once you notice my crotch, it cannot be unseen. I’m sorry.
CFM LEAP-1B engine 737 max 8
The beauty of the CFM LEAP-1B is something that cannot be unseen as well. #sexybeast
Southwest 737 max 8 takeoff SAN
Not only is it a spectacularly good looking engine, it sounds incredible at full throttle as well! Check out the full takeoff video (embedded below) to have a listen for yourself…
Southwest 737 max 8 runway 27 takeoff at SAN
“LEAPing over the Midway District” is an admittedly corny caption for this pic, but it is technically the truth.
Views of mission bay, pacific beach, and La Jolla after takeoff from San Diego airport
Ain’t nothing corny about the scenery though. Mission Bay, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla are looking fantastic this morning (as always). 

In-flight entertainment

Believe it or not, Southwest Airlines does offer a very robust in-flight entertainment option on the MAX 8. There are no video screens in the seats of course, but the streaming service (which you can access from your personal device) is fantastic.

Southwest Airlines in flight entertainment menu
What airline am I flying again? The in flight entertainment menu looks fantastic!
Southwest Airlines streaming movies and tv shows
Dang it. There goes my plan to poop on the lack of in flight entertainment in this review. 
SANspotter impressed with Southwest Airlines in flight entertainment
I officially take back every bad thing that I have ever said about Southwest Airlines.

Not only are there loads of TV shows, music, and movies to choose from, there’s even a flight tracker which you can use to make sure the pilot is doing exactly what he said he was going to do in his welcome announcement.

Compared to Delta (who has arguably the best in flight entertainment in the US), the Southwest offering holds its own. I can’t say the same when comparing Southwest to American Airlines on the other hand. In that case, the streaming service here on the MAX 8 mops the floor with whatever AA is doing these days.

Southwest Airlines streaming entertainment
Here are the screens showing the live TV menu, the flight tracker, and the drink menu (which is an enhanced menu for Hawaii flights only). I think I’m starting to get why this is such a popular airline.

It’s also worth noting that Southwest Airlines does not provide earbuds (either for free or for purchase). You’re going to have to bring your own.

The food

Southwest Airlines serves complimentary snacks on all flights over 175 miles. On flights out to Hawaii from the US mainland, they serve a slightly more robust snack box consisting of crackers, dried fruit, and snack mix. No, it’s not going to be enough to satisfy most people on these long 5.5 hour flights, so it goes without saying that it behooves you to bring your own food.

Southwest Airlines snack box
This is more than I thought we’d get. It’s like they actually care about us!
Southwest Airlines snack pack
Unpopular opinion: fresh apple slices would be a better snack than this.
SANspotter Southwest Airlines snack
Then again, I do loves me a good bag of airline snack mix. The struggle to eat healthy while traveling is real!
Southwest Airlines drink menu
The menu. Free drinks are on the left, and the premium (ridiculously expensive) stuff is on the right.

Drinks such as coffee, soda, and water are complementary. Alcohol is available for purchase – unless you purchased a Business Select ticket. In that case, you’ll receive a coupon for a free premium drink.

SANspotter reading Southwest Airlines in flight menu
I’ll have the…
Southwest Airlines free drink
…water (of course).

Southwest 737 MAX 8 seat comfort

This is the part of the review where I start repeating myself. Basically, everything that I said about the seats in my Southwest Airlines 737-800 review applies to the MAX 8. The seats are hard, they offer zero lumbar support, and the leg room (seat pitch) is so-so. At least they’re consistent.

SANspotter sleeping in southwest 737 max 8 seat
This isn’t the most comfortable airline seat I’ve ever sat in, but it is taking me to Hawaii, so…I guess I can deal with it.
Southwest 737 max forward bulkhead wall
And for what it’s worth, never once did I feel like the leg room in these seats wasn’t enough. And I promise I’m not just saying that because this is a flight pointed straight at Honolulu!
Southwest 737 max 8 flying over Pacific Ocean
BTW, you know **** is getting real when the ground is as blue as the sky. I’ll never not feel nervous about flying way out over the ocean like this.
Southwest Airlines second snack service Hawaii flights
Was this perfect timing, or what? Just as my mind was starting to calculate the odds of MAX 8 catastrophes over open water, the cabin crew came by with Brownie Brittle to calm my nerves. Worked like a charm.
Southwest 737 max 8 forward lavatory
On a related note, the forward lavatory here on the MAX 8 looks like a fantastic place to puke your guts out from the anxiety of flying a flawed aircraft way out over the ocean like this.

The descent and arrival into Honolulu

Not to **** on Southwest or anything, but the descent over the island of Oahu and into HNL is by far the best part of this review. It’s always nice to arrive to the islands after a long time away – even if the airline you’re arriving on ain’t all that fancy.

Southwest 737 max 8 flying over Oahu Hawaii
I don’t care what kind of aircraft it is – seeing land for the first time in 5 hours always fills me with an indescribable sense of relief. We did it!
Southwest 737 max 8 final approach into HNL
Well, we’re not quite there yet. Crashing into the ocean during final approach would really tick me off considering what it took to get to this point. 
Southwest 737 max 8 landing In Honolulu
Okay, now it’s official. Welcome to Honolulu!
Southwest 737 max 8 taxiing at HNL
Of course, there’s always a chance we could veer off the reef runway and end up in the ocean anyway. And no, I’m not a pessimist. Why do you ask?
Southwest Airlines at Honolulu Airport
On a more serious note, seeing Southwest here in Honolulu is weird – and I can’t imagine that Hawaiian Airlines is all too happy about it (especially considering that Southwest operates a robust network of inter island flights as well).
Southwest 737 max 8 pulling up to the gate at HNL
Competition is healthy though, and if anything, it’ll push Hawaiian Airlines to innovate and improve. At least I hope it will.
Southwest Airlines 737 max 8 passengers arrival in Honolulu
Well, that was fun! I don’t think I’ll ever do it again (lol), but I am glad that I did it.
Southwest Airlines arrival in Honolulu
I still think that Hawaiian Airlines is the best airline to and from Hawaii, so you’re going to have to twist my arm (like really hard) to get me to fly Southwest out to the islands again.
Southwest 737 max 8 parked at gate E1 HNL
Who am I kidding? I’d do the trip on a leaky life raft if the price was right, so “never” is a bit of an exaggeration. “Maybe” is more accurate.

Pros and cons of flying on the Southwest Airlines 737 MAX 8

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to write a separate article about the pros and cons of flying Southwest Airlines to Hawaii. The focus of the following pros and cons list is on the aircraft itself, since Southwest utilizes the MAX 8 on a wide variety of different routes within the continental US.


  • It’s a very consistent experience. Stepping onboard the Southwest MAX 8 for the first time will feel familiar to anyone who has flown this airline at least once in the past two years or so.
  • In-flight entertainment is shockingly good. Yes, it’s a streaming service (and you will have to use your own device), but the selection of movies, TV shows, and music is as good as what Delta, United, or American provides.
  • It’s not a bad looking interior. Despite all the negative things I’ve said about the seats in this review, the blue and white color scheme is very stylish actually.


  • There are no power outlets. Which is odd considering that you have to use your personal devices to utilize the in-flight entertainment.
  • There are no pre-assigned seats. Some may see this as a Pro, but I’m of the opinion that it’s a big fat Con. It adds too much stress to the boarding process!
  • The seats are really hard. Like, really hard. I’d suggest bringing a pillow to sit if you’ve got a bony butt – at least on flights over 2 hours in length.

Comments (15)

  1. Bill

    February 15, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      February 15, 2023
  2. JL

    February 15, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      February 15, 2023
  3. Peter

    February 16, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      February 16, 2023
  4. Jim

    February 23, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      February 23, 2023
      • Rob

        March 5, 2023
        • Scott (SANspotter)

          March 6, 2023
  5. Katie

    February 28, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      March 1, 2023
      • Jordan

        June 19, 2023
  6. Mandie

    January 22, 2024
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      January 22, 2024

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