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Cruel and Unusual: AA Puts Panned 737 MAX on Some of Its Longest Domestic Routes

June 11, 2018
4 min read
AA 737MAX aisle seats
Cruel and Unusual: AA Puts Panned 737 MAX on Some of Its Longest Domestic Routes
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American Airlines' Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft have been in service since November 2017, and I've yet to see a report of a positive experience in economy. Legroom is squeezed throughout the plane with 30 inches of pitch in standard economy and only 33 in "Main Cabin Extra" extra-legroom economy.

As a sign of how bad it is, AA even has less pitch on its 737 MAX than ultra-low-cost Ryanair will have. While United copied many aspects of AA's 737 MAX, at least it installed 34 inches of pitch in extra-legroom economy. Not even AA's first class was spared on the 737 MAX, offering up to three inches less pitch than other AA 737s — and much less padding.

The 24-inch wide lavatories on AA's 737 MAX have been panned by passengers and flight attendants alike. And there are only two bathrooms in economy for 160 passengers. Good thing AA allows economy passengers to use first class bathrooms, so all 172 can share the three lavs. However, to AA's credit, at least the 737 MAX sinks no longer spray water at Waterpik speeds, thanks to a prompt fix.

The small economy bathroom was still as small as I remembered it.
American Airlines 737 MAX bathrooms, with a sink large enough to wash one hand at a time and 24-inch wide walls at its widest.

And there aren't any in-flight entertainment screens on the AA 737 MAX. Instead, you'll need to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and connect to AA's Wi-Fi system to access free entertainment.

Not surprisingly, American Airlines passengers are actively trying to avoid the 737 MAX as well as the 737-800s which have been retrofit to offer just as bad of a passenger experience. Avoiding both is going to get harder and harder as the airline takes delivery of more 737 MAX and ramps up the 737-800 cabin refurbish under "Project Oasis."

To maintain legroom with less pitch between seats, AA installed "slimline" seats with less padding. That might be fine for a short flight, but it isn't designed for longer flights. So, where is AA now scheduling this aircraft? On two of its longest domestic routes.

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Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.
Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

According to RoutesOnline, American Airlines will start flying the 737 MAX between Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) starting September 4 and between LAX and Washington Reagan (DCA) starting September 5. These 2,300+ mile up-to-6-hour flights will operate on the following schedule:

  • AA163 — Los Angeles (LAX) 8:00am Departure ⇒ Washington Reagan (DCA) 4:11pm Arrival
  • AA163 — Washington Reagan (DCA) 5:30pm Departure ⇒ Los Angeles (LAX) 8:16pm Arrival
  • AA2237 — Los Angeles (LAX) 9:17pm Departure ⇒ Miami (MIA) 5:25am Arrival
  • AA1061 — Miami (MIA) 9:10pm Departure ⇒ Los Angeles (LAX) 11:49pm Arrival

If you need to fly on these routes, thankfully the 737 MAX isn't the only option. American Airlines has seven other flight options on the LAX-MIA route and one other option on the LAX-DCA route.

All images by the author except as noted.