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Even we leave aside the fact that the 737 MAX 8 is an aircraft Boeing apparently built in a hurry, to a very tight budget, without proper regulatory oversight and which has been involved in two apparently avoidable disasters, there is still something very wrong with the American Airlines version of this aircraft – it’s horribly uncomfortable.
American Airlines used the 737 MAX 8 to introduce US travelers to the ‘joys’ of 30” seat pitch (legroom) and lavatories so small they’re a challenge to use, and it’s the aircraft one American Airlines Captain called “the most miserable experience in the world”.
During a conversation between staff and management the Captain in question is quoted as having said the following:
“It’s the most miserable experience in the world and everybody I’ve ever talked to that had to fly on this thing… Alaska Airlines has a 737-800 as we do and has 4 lavatories. We have 3.”
“Now you’ve added 12 more seats, no more lavatories, and you’ve shrunk that lavatory to 75% the size that it was before.”
“I can’t turn around in it. The sink is the most miserable thing going, and you cram those people in those little tiny seats you just bragged about to the point that I can’t sit back there. As a crew member if I ever have to deadhead back there I’ll refuse because it’s just not practical.”
“I think you need to have you and Parker and everybody sit back in the last row of the 737 on a long flight and see what it’s like to use those lavatories…that’s the biggest complaint I get is those lavatories.. there’s 160 [economy] passengers for 2 lavatories on 5 hour flights.”
He’s not wrong…but American Airlines hasn’t listened.
Since that conversation took place, American Airlines has flown its 737 MAX 8 aircraft on domestic routes as long as Miami – Las Vegas and Miami – San Francisco and now, in anticipation of the aircraft finally being cleared to fly again, the airline appears to be planning to test out the aircraft on yet more long domestic routes.
Routes Online has noted that American Airlines has scheduled the 737 MAX 8 to fly the following routes on the dates indicated:
- Charlotte – St. Louis – 9 & 16 November
- Chicago O’Hare – New York (LGA) – 3 November – 3 December (1 daily)
- Chicago O’Hare – Orlando – 21 November – 3 December (1 daily)
- Dallas/Ft. Worth – Las Vegas – 21 November – 3 December (1 daily)
- Dallas/Ft. Worth – Orlando – 21 November – 3 December (1 daily)
- Dallas/Ft. Worth – Seattle – 1 December
- Los Angeles – Nashville – 3 November – 20 November (1 daily)
- Phoenix – New York JFK – 28 November
As you’ll see, the abomination is only set to fly some of these routes on one particular date while on others the aircraft is scheduled to operate the route for a number of weeks…but the length of time the aircraft is scheduled to operate these specific routes isn’t the point here.
What is the point is the length of the route on which American Airlines is prepared to subject its passengers to this truly horrible aircraft.
All you have to do is check the travel times American Airlines itself says some of these routes involve to see what I mean.
Dallas/Ft Worth to Seattle is blocked at 4 hours 28 minutes…
Nashville to Los Angeles is blocked at 4 hours 47 minutes…
…and New York JFK to Phoenix is blocked at an incredible 5 hours 48 minutes!
The idea of sitting in a tight, narrow and cramped seat for the best part of 6 hours is my idea of true travel torture and yet this is exactly what American Airlines is happy to subject its passengers to.
Yes, the MAX 8 isn’t yet scheduled to fly these routes on an ongoing basis…but the 737 MAX 8 isn’t yet allowed to take to the skies either so who knows what American Airlines will do if/when the aircraft is back in regular service.
The 737 MAX 8s that we’re currently seeing in the November schedules are just placeholders (as American cannot be sure when the aircraft will be cleared to fly) but they’re also indicators of the routes on which the airline would be happy to operate the aircraft…and this doesn’t make for happy reading.
It’s getting harder and harder to avoid American’s new “Oasis” interior aircraft as the airline refits its already cramped aircraft with yet more, less comfortable seats while also removing lavatories…but we can still do our best!
While it can be hard to tell from the American Airlines website what cabin you’ll be offered on a number of aircraft the airline offers (one aircraft type often has more than one interior operating in American’s fleet), the 737 MAX 8 comes in one configuration only – abysmal.
Even if you’re perfectly happy to fly the 737 MAX 8 on safety grounds (I don’t think I am) this is still an American Airlines aircraft you should be looking out for in the schedules and avoiding if at all possible on the grounds of comfort alone.
Some American Airlines flyers based in Miami (the home of the airline’s MAX 8s) may have a little trouble doing this but the rest of us still have a fighting chance.