This Southwest Airlines Safety Card is Freaking Passengers Out

The FAA has grounded the Boeing 737 MAX, and so have safety agencies around the world. In the US the largest MAX operator is Southwest Airlines, followed by American, and then United. We don’t yet know when the plane will return to the skies.

In the meantime there are questions around not just an ‘angle of attack’ sensor providing inaccurate readings, and engaging an automatic system that appears to be part of what caused the aircraft’s nose down in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, but around the certification process for the plane itself.

Naturally if passengers think they’re flying on a 737 MAX, that’s going to raise concerns. And plenty of passengers apparently think that’s just what’s happening — even though of course it isn’t. Instead they’re being freaked out by the seat back safety card on Southwest Airlines.

Passengers don’t understand that Southwest uses the same safety card for their Boeing 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s.

As a result they’re tweeting at the airline, believing that Southwest is flying planes that the FAA has grounded because the safety card uses the word ‘MAX” on it.

This is understandable, I think. TV news often doesn’t know the difference between a Boeing 737 MAX and a Boeing 747.

Or between a US carrier and Malaysia Airlines.

It’s perfectly reasonable that the median Southwest Airlines passenger wouldn’t get the nuance between a -800 and a MAX 8 when the aircraft’s materials say it’s both.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. It’s not that difficult. Just ask! You’re paranoid enough to post on social media but not enough to just ask your crew? And lets be honest, that’s about the only thing people read on the card. People love a great headline, but not interested in the details. SWA isn’t going to put their reputation on the line much less the fines involved to make a buck. Come one guys.

  2. I do wonder if the FAA would approve a quick update to remove the MAX 8 reference from the safety card but keep all other aspects. Replacing 35,000 safety cards may not be cheap, but it is probably cheaper than any negative publicity or unfounded fears while the MAX remains grounded.

  3. This is an own goal by Southwest. Boeing 737 is associated with forced crashes, and they’re flying loads of them — just fix the safety cards.

  4. haha, I just had that happen too, then I realized it was for 2 types of planes. I did flench.

  5. It literally says “Safety Information for Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737 Max 8 Aircraft” directly under that.

    What bothers me is these people weren’t asking if they were on a max (I could at least understand that), but were asking “Why am I flying on a max?”

  6. Slightly off topic, but a couple years ago, I was was flying on DL7 , DXB-ATL, operated by a 77L. The safety card at my seat was for a 757. I brought it to the attention of the flight attendant and joked that I didn’t think a 757 would make it to ATL. He didn’t seem to get the joke (until I explained); I received a polite chuckle, but unfortunately not the correct safety card.

  7. If you actually thought you were flying on a dangerous aircraft that was about to take off, you would…. tweet about it?

  8. It’s a legitimate gripe. Would not be unreasonable to make an announcement immediately before or after the safety show (or during it if that’s permitted).

  9. I agree with so many of the comments. Look at the card a little closer and if you’re still worried, just ask.

  10. I can’t wait for the real freak-out when passengers start flying the MAX again. It will be perfectly safe, but the vast majority of passengers will be very worried (for a month or so). Humans are terrible at rationally processing safety information.

  11. It’s among the dumbest gripes ever and SWA does NOT need to change their safety card or make announcements. Instead of taking to Twitter how about just asking a member of the crew what plane your on? If your really that concerned about it. Or are these people tweeting really just hoping to become the next viral sensation.

    Then again the same ones who are concerned are likely the same people the famous CNN banner was aimed at which proclaimed that the 777 would have “difficulty” maintaining altitude when out of fuel.

  12. I am incredulous and appalled at the ignorance, dare I say stupidity, of some people: The card clearly indicates it is for both aircraft. There is no need to change it.
    And anyone who would think for a moment that any US carrier would operate an aircraft grounded by the FAA probably should take a bus.
    I suppose I would take some comfort that these folk actually looked at the safety card if I believed they made it past the cover.

  13. There’s no story there: they’re just imbeciles with particularly poor reading comprehension. Surprised they weren’t flying Spirit or Frontier…

    This is why America can’t have nice things.

  14. Last week, me & my kid were on a Southwest flight from MDW to ONT with the same safety card. We laughed when we saw it & wondered how many people would actually think we were on a Max.

  15. The arrogance of some of you. It’s not the customer or consumers responsible to make sure they’re informed about the safety of a flight. It the airline @southwest. They should do whatever they have to, to instill confidence in the safety and protection of all flights. They’re the ones that is the first line of defense against ignorance and fear a passengers may have. So do whatever it take to bring clarity to the situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.