Tour Norwegian Air's Brand-New Boeing 737 MAX 8
After a two-week delay due to technical issues, yesterday Norwegian Air took delivery of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft — the first of 100 already on order. Billed as more efficient than both its 737 predecessors and competitors like the A321neo, the MAX 8 is a perfect fit for the airline as it continues to add service to the US and elsewhere. Starting later this summer, these planes (along with four more to be delivered in 2017) will fly between northern Europe and Norwegian's new bases on the East Coast.
The event was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the aircraft at Seattle's Boeing Field. Speaking beforehand, Norwegian Air CEO Bjørn Kjos called the delivery a major milestone for the airline, since the MAX 8's low operational costs will pave the road for more affordable transatlantic fares.
I was invited to scope out the plane before its inaugural trip to Oslo, and as a frequent 737 passenger, I was excited to see what the new MAX model has to offer.
The MAX 8 follows the simple red and white color scheme of Norwegian's existing livery. The tail fin on this aircraft has yet to be painted, but it will eventually bear a likeness of low-cost airline pioneer Freddie Laker.
The engine nacelle features a ring of chevrons that aid noise suppression, giving the aircraft a 40% smaller noise footprint.
The plane looks sharp, but the new design features are all about improving efficiency. The 737 MAX AT winglets reduce drag and improve airflow around the wing.
The cockpit of the MAX 8 has several updated design features, but remains remarkably compact.
The enlarged displays stand out immediately, even on a sunny day.
Boeing has made the flight deck lighter and more power-efficient. Not too much has changed, however, since most airlines will need pilots to be able to fly the MAX 8 as well as older versions of the 737.
Cabin and Seats
Norwegian's new MAX 8 sticks to the common 3-3 configuration, with 32 rows and 189 seats total (row 1 only has seats on the port side). Like other newer 737 aircraft, the cabin uses the popular Boeing Sky Interior.
Like other economy seats in Norwegian's 737 and 787 fleet, each seat on the MAX 8 is 17.2 inches wide, while most seats offer 29-30 inches of pitch. Both figures are on the small side, but not nearly the smallest in the industry.
Exit rows and bulkhead seats have the same seat width, but offer a much roomier 38 inches of pitch.
The aircraft is equipped with Boeing's standard overhead pivot bins (rather than the newer, larger Space Bins). Your carry-on bags will fit fine, but there's not enough room for every passenger to bring one.
The seat backs have a hard pocket for magazines and safety cards, plus an elastic webbed pocket to stash phones or other small personal items. The seats don't have built-in screens, and while Norwegian plans to offer complimentary Wi-Fi on all transatlantic flights within the next year, it won't be fast enough to accommodate streaming video. If you're flying on one of these aircraft, you should bring your own device and download content ahead of time.
Overall the cabin feels modern and reasonably spacious. Even at 6'3" I fit comfortably in the standard seats, but I think a long-haul flight would start to feel crowded after a few hours with only 30 inches of pitch.
Galleys and Lavatories
Norwegian's MAX 8 has two galleys and three lavatories. The smaller forward galley is positioned in front of the bulkhead by the forward starboard door.
The rear galley is much larger, but it doesn't appear to have been updated much from earlier 737 designs. (The boxes you see below are snacks and drinks that hadn't yet been stowed for the delivery flight.)
The lavatory seems to be slightly taller than what I'm used to on Southwest's 737's. I could stand up inside without worrying about hitting my head on the ceiling.
The galley areas also feature the newer jump seats and flight attendant panels.
Norwegian's MAX 8 isn't going to turn heads based on amenities or appearances. However, the airline projects that the aircraft will lower operating costs by 8%, while reducing both noise and carbon emissions. If those savings translate to lower fares and help Norwegian continue its transatlantic expansion, then customers will take notice.
For more on Boeing's MAX line, check out these posts: