Ryanair’s First 737 MAX 200 Rolls Out With a Truly Hellacious Seat Map

Nov 18, 2018

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Back in May 2017, it leaked that American Airlines planned to install 29-inch pitch on its new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The backlash was so bad that the airline backed off and installed 30-inch pitch in standard economy (but AA’s CEO won’t rule out sub-30-inch pitch in the future).

With 12 more seats packed into the same space as before and tiny bathrooms, AA’s 737 MAX can make anyone feel claustrophobic. United followed in AA’s footsteps by arranging its 737 MAX 9 with small bathrooms and as little as 30 inches of pitch in economy. (Meanwhile, Southwest opted for 32-inch pitch on its 737 MAX.)

But, Ryanair is about to make these American Airlines and United 737 MAX aircraft look downright spacious.

Boeing has designed for ultra-low-cost carriers a special version of its 737 MAX aircraft, carrying up to 200 passengers. In an ode to that carrying capacity, the aircraft type has been referred to as the Boeing 737 MAX 200 — now referred to as the “Boeing 737-8-200” in recent filings. And, in a report that Boeing released this month, the Boeing 737-8-200 seat map looks like a true nightmare:

Ryanair is the first — and so far only — airline to order this new 737 variant. Originally ordering 100 Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft in 2014, Europe’s busiest airline is doubling down on the aircraft type by exercising options for even more. As of April 2018, Ryanair increased its firm orders up to 135 aircraft.

But, it seems that Ryanair isn’t opting for all 200 potential seats. Whether its for the optics or for another reason, all press releases that Ryanair has issued so far reference 197 seats on what it dubs the “Boeing 737 MAX 200 Gamechanger.” While we don’t know the exact layout of the aircraft, here’s one proposal for how the current Ryanair 737-800 seat map would morph into the 197-seat 737 MAX 200 / 737-8-200:

And sadly for European low-cost passengers, this seat map isn’t far off from taking to the skies. On Saturday, Ryanair’s first 737-8-200 rolled off of the assembly line:

Whether Ryanair opts for the 200-seat version or the 197-seat version, there are three ways in which passengers are going to be squeezed even tighter. Let’s take these one by one.

Seat pitch: It’s hard to explain just how small 28 inches of pitch is, but anyone who’s flown Spirit Airlines in standard economy or Frontier’s smallest seats knows just how tight this feels. If you’ve flown Ryanair before, you got to experience a relatively spacious 30 inches of pitch on its Boeing 737-800 aircraft:

Seats on Ryanair 737-800. Photo by the author.
30-inch pitch seats on Ryanair 737-800. Photo by the author.

As a visual for seat pitches, TPG‘s Zach Honig photographed a 5-foot 11-inch tall Embraer executive sitting in a variety of seat pitches at the Farnborough Air Show. The smallest option was 29 inches, so see if you can mentally subtract another inch from this:

29 inches of seat pitch.
29 inches of seat pitch.

Seat width: The Boeing 737 is already known for being a tight aircraft when it comes to seat width. The seats in the front of many aircraft can be slightly smaller due to the curvature of the airplane, but this isn’t usually noticeable since these rows are typically arranged with wider first class seats. However, the first three rows on this aircraft seem noticeably narrower. But, the last three rows look even worse. Many aircraft place lavatories in this narrowing part of the aircraft, but Boeing has squeezed two lavatories in the back galley in order to place extra rows of seats elsewhere.

LavatoriesThe Boeing 737 MAX lavatory options are already pretty bad. Airlines seem to have a choice between two bathroom arrangements: one with an S-wall and one a slightly roomier option with a flat wall. Both are awful. But, this 737-8-200 arrangement seems to take it to the next level. There’s just three tiny bathrooms for 197-200 passengers, with two of these squeezed into the back galley. It’ll be fascinating to see just how small the lavatories end up being on Ryanair’s 737-8-200. No matter the final dimensions, you’ll want to use the bathroom in the airport terminal instead.

H/T: Jon Ostrower

Featured image by Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images

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