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Where to sit when flying United’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 with the new interior

July 24, 2021
8 min read
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United just added a new plane model to its fleet, and it’s the most modern one yet.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 — the smaller of the two MAX variants currently in service — joined the carrier’s domestic fleet on July 16, marking the first of 270 new domestic jets that are slated to be delivered to United over the coming years.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This isn’t just any domestic jet, though.

It’s the first to feature United’s newly unveiled "signature interior," with seat-back screens, larger overhead bins, power outlets and other passenger-friendly amenities from nose to tail. All new United planes will be delivered from the factory with the upgraded cabins, while existing ones will undergo a comprehensive retrofit program.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For now, if you’re looking for the swankiest domestic experience offered by United, you’ll want to book on the MAX 8. And once you’re booked on Boeing’s new (and beleaguered) workhorse, here’s which seats to pick and which ones to avoid.

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United First on the Boeing 737 MAX 8

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

If faced with the choice, you’ll definitely want to snag one of the 16 first-class recliners on the United 737 MAX 8.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Seats are spread across four rows in a 2-2 configuration with roughly 37 inches of pitch.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though the “bones” of the seat are identical to the new ones you’ll find on other domestic UA jets, the seats feel more modern thanks to the 13-inch high-definition seat-back monitor and other refined touches, like a remote control and relocated power outlet.

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(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Some travelers like sitting in the bulkhead, but I’d recommend avoiding row 1 on the United 737 MAX 8. That’s because the screens are fixed into the bulkhead wall — if you’re really tall or height-challenged, you’ll need to bend your neck to watch your content.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Another drawback to the bulkhead is that there’s a built-in airbag in each of the seat belts. Though this feature is designed for your safety, the airbag can get uncomfortable after resting on your hips throughout the flight.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I’d recommend choosing seats in row 2 or 3 when flying upfront on the 737 MAX 8.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Row 4 would be my second-to-last pick. You’ll be reclining into the bulkhead wall dividing first class and coach, and the proximity to the coach cabin could be bothersome.

United Economy Plus on the Boeing 737 MAX 8

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

The first thing I noticed when boarding United’s new MAX is the sheer number of extra-legroom Economy Plus seats.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

These “purple seats,” as they’re affectionately called by some flight attendants, span nine rows in a standard 3-3 configuration.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As part of United’s five-year plan, dubbed “United Next,” the carrier’s investing in growing the proportion of premium seats in its fleet, including both first-class and Economy Plus, by roughly 75% from 2019 to 2026.

These seats offer an additional three to four inches of pitch compared to regular economy, but the actual seats themselves are otherwise identical.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Some of the 54 Economy Plus seats are much better than others, so let’s start with which ones you might want to avoid:

  • Row seven is the bulkhead. Some people will undoubtedly enjoy these seats — no one reclines into you, and the bulkhead wall doesn’t extend all the way to the floor, so there’s ample under-seat storage below the two first-class recliners in front. However, two of the biggest drawbacks include immovable armrests and the fact that the seat-back screens swivel out from in between each seat.
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
  • Row 11 is missing windows. If you’re an aviation enthusiast who enjoys staring out the window, you’ll be disappointed if you end up in Row 11.
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
  • Row 12 and Row 14 each have just one window, compared to the two you’ll find in other rows. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but if you’re after the perfect wing-view shot, you may prefer to sit elsewhere.
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
  • Row 15 is right in front of the exit row. As such, these seats don’t recline, so I’d recommend steering clear of these six spots.
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As for where you should sit, anywhere else in the Economy Plus section works, but I have a strong preference for exit row 21. Here you’ll find a total of 38 inches of pitch — eight more than in standard coach — and the seats recline as normal.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The only downside is that the window armrest is built into the exit door, so it’s not nearly as comfortable as those you’ll find elsewhere on the jet.

United Economy on the Boeing 737 MAX 8

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

With 96 seats, most flyers will end up sitting in the standard economy section. Good thing these are some of the best coach seats in the United fleet.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

After all, you’ll find a seat-back monitor, large overhead bins, power outlets and USB ports available throughout the cabin, including in economy.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Pitch is roughly 30 inches, so it could definitely feel tight depending on your body size.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The only seats to avoid in coach are those in the last row 38 due to limited recline. Otherwise, the remaining rows are roughly equal.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I’d try sitting as close to the front as possible for a faster deplaning experience, but otherwise, you can’t really go wrong with other coach seats.

Bottom line

United’s newest jet, the Boeing 737 MAX 8, is now flying the friendly skies. With an upgraded onboard experience, this is the plane that’ll likely win United some awards. While the enhancements span nose to tail, all seats aren’t created equally.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

It pays to know where to sit, so that you avoid missing window views, and instead maximize your legroom.

In first-class, you’ll find me in row two or three. In Economy Plus, I’ll be in exit row 21, and in coach, I’ll choose a seat as close to the front as possible.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you notice that one of my preferred seats is already assigned when booking, perhaps we’ll be on the same flight. If so, come up and say hi!

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023