United Announces First 737 MAX 9 Routes & Adds A Bit Of Nonsense For Good Measure

a plane flying in the sky

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United Airlines has announced the first routes on which we’ll see the airline try out its new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft and, with the announcement, the airline’s PR team couldn’t resist adding in a small bit of nonsense in the hope that no one will them out on it.

Last week I wrote a piece explaining how United makes it incredibly easy for me to dislike it and, as if I needed any more help, the latest press release backs up one of the criticisms I have of United – it tries to fool its customers into believing something that’s simply not true.

The headline of the United press release reads “MAXimum Comfort, MAXimum Efficiency United Airlines to Start Boeing 737 MAX 9 Service” and, while I appreciate United’s desire to get the word “MAX” into the title as much as possible, it would have been considerably more truthful to use the phrase “MAXimum discomfort” in the title.

a white airplane flying in the skyImage courtesy of United

At one point there was a genuine concern that United was going to squeeze in yet more seats into its latest aircraft but, thankfully, the 737 MAX 9 is being delivered with the same 179 seats as United’s existing 737-900 aircraft….but the notion that this aircraft offers maximum comfort is nonsense.

The PR headline’s untruth is compounded by this quote from United’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Levy (emphasis is mine):

The addition of the MAX 9 furthers our efforts to become a more efficient and productive airline. It has better fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs and does all of this while maximizing customer comfort

Here’s why that’s simply not true.

United’s own press release says the following (emphasis is mine):

The Boeing 737 MAX 9 features 179 seats including 20 United First seats in a 2-2 configuration, 48 in Economy Plus in a 3-3 configuration with 34 inches of pitch, and 111 United Economy seats in a 3-3 configuration with at least 30 inches of pitch.

30″ of pitch (leg room) is not in any way comfortable!

a white airplane flying in the skyImage courtesy of United

I’ve flown in quite a few short-haul aircraft that only offer 30″ of seat pitch in a standard Economy Class seat and, after an hour or so, I get very uncomfortable. At 6ft in height I don’t consider myself to be especially tall so I’m sure I’m not the only traveler that feels this way.

If you compare the Economy Class seats in the United 737 MAX 9 to similar aircraft operated by American & Delta it offers passengers no more room than they do and, in some cases, less room.

When compared to the Economy Class seats in a Southwest 737-800 the MAX 9 offers 2″ less leg room in Economy Class – that’s a massive difference in personal space offered.

It’s not much better in First Class either.

The United 737 MAX 9 offers 20″ of seat width in First Class and both Delta and American offer 737 variants with 1″ more seat width than that.

While the United MAX 9 offers 37″ of seat pitch the American Airlines 737-800 currently offers up to 40″ (although this may change as American goes about ruining the comfort levels in its fleet too).

United 737 MAX 9 First Routes & Schedules

For those of you wondering when and where the first United Airlines 737 MAX 9 aircraft will appear here’s the schedule the airline has released:

a table with a number of flights

Bottom Line

The was a time where an airline getting a new aircraft was generally good news for passengers – seats were usually improved and travel times were reduced – but those days are mostly in the past.

Yes, as aircraft get more efficient and as engine technology develops we are seeing slightly shorter journey times….but the comfort levels are getting worse and worse.

Not all that long ago 32″ was the standard seat pitch in an Economy Class seat and 18″ the standard seat width. Nowadays most Economy Class seats are just 17″ wide (as more seats are squeezed into each row) and seat pitch is between 30″ and 31″ (as more rows are squeezed in to the cabins)…and none of that equates to passenger comfort.

The United Airlines 737 MAX 9 may be the airline’s shiniest and newest aircraft but it certainly doesn’t offer maximum comfort…far from it.

Featured image courtesy of United Airlines