Caribbean Airlines launches new 737-8 planes into service
Few things beat getting a shiny new airliner as an anniversary present.
On Jan. 14, 15 years and two weeks since Caribbean Airlines was started, a brief ceremony at Piarco International Airport (POS), Trinidad and Tobago, marked the entry into service of the carrier’s first Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft on a flight to Norman Manley International [KIN], Kingston, Jamaica.
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Well…to be entirely accurate, Caribbean Airlines had already received its first Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft (9Y-CAL) in late November, followed a few days later by the second one (9Y-GUY).
Both aircraft flew directly from Paine Field, Washington, to Trinidad, on a flight of around eight hours. Meanwhile, four others (9Y-BAR, 9Y-ANT, 9Y-JAM and 9Y-BAH) are awaiting delivery.
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The Trinidad-based airline ordered 12 MAXes (all of the -8 version) back in 2018 to replace its Boeing 737-800 fleet, some of which are already past the 20-year mark. Caribbean Airlines' MAX fleet is on lease from Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
The expectation is that Caribbean Airlines will have transitioned its jet fleet entirely to the Boeing 737-8 by July 2022, phasing all its Boeing 737-800s out in the process.
It is not yet known, though, whether 12 will be the final number of MAXes Caribbean Airlines will take. The original plan called for a like-for-like replacement of the Boeing 737-800s, but as with so many other airlines, the pandemic may have prompted a reevaluation of fleet needs.
In fact, in response to the COVID-19-related drop in bookings, the airline returned two of its B737-800s to the lessors, and in comments to local media last December, sources at the airline declined to confirm the final figure of MAXes it will be committing to lease.
Related: CDC lowers risk warning for Jamaica and the Bahamas
The arrival of the MAXes fits into a broader marketing initiative called “REset Expectations” that should lead to the introduction, throughout this year, of several new products and services.
The last few years have already seen Caribbean Airlines adding new ancillary services such as upgrade bidding (powered by Plusgrade technology), and “Caribbean your Space,” which allows economy class passengers to pay extra to keep the seat next to them empty.
In 2020, Caribbean Airlines went through a thorough rebranding, with the unveiling of a new logo and livery, which preserved its iconic hummingbird livery in a more stylized, colorful form.
When it comes to the cabin, Caribbean Airlines has opted to fit its MAXes with a 3-class, 160 seat configuration, with 16 business class seats, 36 Caribbean Plus seats (Caribbean’s premium economy) and 108 standard economy class seats.
The main difference between Caribbean Plus and regular Economy is seat pitch, with the former featuring 35” pitch compared to 30” in the latter (although if you are lucky enough to get a seat next to the emergency door you will enjoy a generous 38” pitch). Caribbean Plus seats also come with adjustable headrests and AC ports (in addition to the USB ones available on all seats).
As for business class, it features a roomier 45” seat pitch, as well as 13.3” seatback monitors with access to the Caribbean View IFE service. Both Caribbean Plus and economy passengers can also access this IFE platform on their own devices via the airline’s purpose app, which should be downloaded prior to the flight.
Related: Reopening guide to Jamaica for tourists
In addition to its extensive flight network in the Caribbean region, where it is the flag carrier for three different nations (Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana), Caribbean Airlines currently flies to four U.S. destinations: Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), New York (JFK) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL) as well as to Toronto Pearson (YYZ) in Canada. All of the carrier’s North American destinations are expected to see MAX service in the near future as the new airplanes are inducted into the fleet.
Caribbean Airlines has added a dedicated section to its website providing all sorts of details and answering questions about the MAX entry into service as well as the airline's distinctive features (such as LED mood lighting, larger overhead bins and lower fuel consumption) when compared to earlier-generation aircraft.