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In November 2017, American Airlines launched the inaugural service of its new Boeing 737 MAX. The feedback was pretty universal: it’s not an aircraft you want to fly.
That’s because American Airlines has 172 seats in the cabin, including 16 first class seats and 30 extra-legroom seats. While the airline backed off of its plan to install seats with 29-inch pitch, the standard economy seats ended up with a mere 30 inches of pitch. Notably, infamous low-cost carrier Ryanair will have more pitch in its 737 MAX than American Airlines.
Here’s how AA’s 737 MAX compares to its Boeing 737-800 (before being retrofit with 12 more seats):
|AA||Boeing 737-800||Boeing 737 MAX||Difference|
|First Class Seats||16||16||—|
|Main Cabin Extra Seats||30||30||—|
|Main Cabin Seats||114||126||+12|
|First Class Pitch||38-40″||37″||-1-3″|
|Main Cabin Extra Pitch||34″||33″||-1″|
|Main Cabin Pitch||31″||30″||-1″|
As I’ve experienced for myself, the issue isn’t the legroom. Indeed, as an AA spokesperson points out, the seat has 0.4 inches more legroom than the existing seats on the airline’s Boeing 737-800. And the lack of padding in the slimline seats aren’t bad for a two-hour flight. However, the general lack of room is pervasive throughout the aircraft. The squeezed seat pitch amplifies the already-narrow 737 seat width. And there’s no relief to be found.
The original galleys were so narrow that flight attendants demanded new galleys to provide more space — forcing the airline to retrofit seven brand-new aircraft. The 24-inch wide bathrooms installed on the 737 MAX have been panned by anyone I’ve spoken with — which includes the passengers I watched get stuck on AA’s inaugural flight of the 737 MAX.
That’s not by chance. As reported by View From The Wing, American Airlines President Robert Isom knows that minimizing passenger’s “real estate” is how the airline can make more money — just like some of the least-popular airlines in the country:
The fastest growing airlines in the United States Spirit and Frontier. Most profitable airlines in the United States Spirit. We have to be cognizant of the marketplace and that real estate that’s how we make our money.
There’s also the issue of in-flight entertainment: AA decided to save costs by not installing IFE screens in the seatbacks. So, you’ll have to bring your own device and stream entertainment from the Wi-Fi system. While the seatbacks have a tablet/phone holder, you won’t be able to watch on a laptop due to the minimized seat pitch. However, unlike on AA’s 757 and 767 fleet, all seats have power outlets on the 737 MAX. There’s a USB plug on the seatback for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) passengers as well as underseat universal power outlets.
American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker seemed to get the message about the negatives of flying his airline’s 737 MAX. Since the aircraft’s launch, he’s been repeatedly asked if he’s flown the aircraft. While still defending the aircraft’s bathrooms and seat pitch, for more than six months he repeatedly answered that he hadn’t flown it.
Well, that’s finally changed. After eighth months of service, Parker experienced the 737 Max in flight. An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed the event and issued this statement:
Yes, Doug flew the MAX in coach from Quito to MIA. He said it was a nice main cabin experience — in line with US carrier main cabin products with a couple of pleasant surprises. The overhead bins are large and it had a nice array of movies. But most of all, they had a great crew of flight attendants who kept customers happy.
Notably absent from this statement was any mention of legroom, seat size, seat comfort or the bathroom experience. But, to his credit, not only did he fly the 737 MAX but he did so in standard economy.
In a statement about the aircraft, the airline has to rely on comparisons with other airline’s 737 MAX aircraft to come up with positives:
American offers amenities on the MAX that some of our competitors don’t, including power at every seat, free streaming entertainment and access to the fastest in-flight internet in the sky. The MAX is an excellent airplane and we’re proud to fly it.
When it was originally launched on just the Miami (MIA) to New York LaGuardia (LGA) route, it was easy to avoid AA’s 737 MAX. However, as the airline has taken more deliveries, it’s been assigning the dissed aircraft to more routes. As a frequent AA flyer myself, I wanted to check in to see how far and wide the 737 MAX plague has spread.
There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that it’s now currently operating on or scheduled to operate on 18 routes. The good news? The routes are mostly exclusive to AA’s de facto 737 MAX base in Miami with one fight operating between Los Angeles and DC starting in September:
- MIA-Antigua (ANU): daily
- MIA-Barbados (BGI): 5x weekly
- MIA-Boston (BOS): daily
- MIA-Washington Reagan (DCA): daily from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18
- MIA-Denver (DEN): daily
- MIA-Grand Cayman (GCM): 1x daily from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18
- MIA-Los Angeles (LAX): daily starting Sept. 4
- MIA-New York LaGuardia (LGA): many flights daily
- MIA-Orlando (MCO): daily
- MIA-Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (POP): daily starting Oct. 4
- MIA-Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (POS): daily
- MIA-Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ): daily
- MIA-Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (SDQ): daily
- MIA-San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO): 1x daily from Dec. 19 to Jan. 6
- MIA-St. Croix, Virgin Islands (STX): daily from Oct. 4 to Dec. 18
- MIA-Tampa (TPA): daily from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18
- MIA-Quito, Ecuador (UIO): daily
- Los Angeles (LAX)-Washington Reagan (DCA): daily starting Sept. 5
The airline wouldn’t confirm or deny a list of 737 MAX routes. So, if you’re able to find any routes we missed, please note them in the comments below and we’ll add them to the list.
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