If you thought planes couldn’t get any more uncomfortable, we have Hawaii travel news to report. An aircraft once designed to seat fewer than 100 people comfortably has now been stretched to seat 230 passengers. That sounds both good for the airlines and bad for us passengers.
Last week, Boeing reported that it had been approved to start flight tests toward certification of the 737 MAX 10, the largest and most uncomfortable 737 yet. The plane has its sights set on one location near and dear to us here: Hawaii.
Need to use the lavatory? Maybe not.
Flying on United’s smaller 737 MAX 8 a couple of weeks ago, the line for the two rear lavatories was long and extremely difficult to maneuver. There simply isn’t enough room for the flight attendants and both the standing and seated passengers to manage in what is a woefully inadequate space. And that was with just 166 seats in total. We haven’t yet seen the actual seat map for the MAX 10, but given its intentionally greater capacity, we look for this problem to be getting worse.
Airbus A321neo finally meets its match to Hawaii.
The new plane’s specs make it the perfect competitor for a close to equally uncomfortable aircraft, the Airbus A321neo. That plane is widely used for Hawaii flights by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines. All of these planes tout excellent performance in terms of airlines and dismal performance in terms of passenger comfort.
Boeing confirms that the MAX 10 will be certified in 2024, with the first planes arriving at United Airlines either at the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025. The aircraft has already been tested and flown on more than 400 flights.
United Airlines bets big on 737 MAX 10, Replacing 757 to Hawaii
United’s very first 737 MAX 10 variant is shown in the photo above flying near Everett, WA. The airline is preparing to use their newest fleet of aircraft on Hawaii fights, among other destinations, as it is seen as the perfect replacement for the venerable, up to 30-year-old 757 fleet that still plies the Hawaiian skies.
United Airlines is the launch partner for the 737 MAX 10.
The airline has 200 such planes on order, which may come in two flavors (configurations). Overall, there are more than 800 orders for the stretched jet. The United planes are reported to have both an international version and a domestic version. It isn’t clear which might be deployed for Hawaii missions.
Polaris-like business class on some MAX 10.
While the domestic version will likely feature recliner seats similar to what United already uses in business class on their other MAX variants, that is not what is coming to the international version. It will feature a large business class section of 1 x 1 lie-flat seats, similar but not identical to Polaris seating found on other United Aircraft. These will be an extreme angle of the suites to the aircraft walls to provide more seating in less space while offering lie-flat accommodations. United has already confirmed that offering.
You’ll recall that the United 757 fleet also has downsized Polaris like lie-flat seats in business class.
Popular seat-back entertainment returns to narrow-body planes.
This feature, highly popular with passengers (including BOH editors), recently went missing in narrow-body planes. Hawaiian Airlines, for example, opted to eliminate seat-back screens on its fleet of narrow-body A321neo planes.
Delta, on the other hand, opted to return to seat-back entertainment with the recent introduction of its A321neo fleet. United Airlines has also changed direction and implemented high-quality seat-back screens with Bluetooth connectivity on its 737 MAX fleet. And, while not likely to be seen on Hawaii flights much longer due to excessive fuel consumption, even their legacy 737-800 fleet is being retrofitted with seat-back screens with Bluetooth.
How did an 85-passenger 737-100 get stretched to a torturous 230-seat MAX 10?
The 1960s designed Boeing 737 pictured above was originally intended to accommodate fewer than 100 passengers. It is now being extended further than ever before with the MAX 10. It accommodates up to 230 passengers.
The 737 family of aircraft started flying in 1968 with Lufthansa as the launch customer for the Boeing 737-100. Its seating capacity was 85 passengers in two classes or 119 in one class. But just months later, when the -200 arrived, it had a capacity of 97 to 136 passengers.
Generations of bigger variants have followed. Boeing 737 “Next Generation” started with a move to more passenger capacity on the -300, which seated 128 to 149 passengers, followed by the -400, which could seat 146 to 188 passengers. The -500 was the smallest Next Generation variant, accommodating just 108 to 132 passengers in two classes, and the -600 also seated 108 to 132 passengers.
The Boeing 737-700 (notably flown by Aloha Airlines to and from the mainland) seated 126 to 149 passengers in a two-class configuration. Later Boeing 737 variants include those still flying to and from Hawaii today. The -800 seats 162 to 189 passengers. And finally, the -900ER accommodates up to 215 passengers.
Of the 737 MAX variants, the -8’s has a 162-189 seat capacity while the -9 accommodates from 178–193 passengers.
How else does the A321neo differ from the 737 MAX?
While the A320 and 737 MAX families have multiple variants, they all share certain attributes in common with their siblings. These are important to passenger comfort. The Airbus familyi has 7 inches more cabin width than the 737 family. With six seats across each cabin, seat can be substantially wider in a situation where every inch counts. In addition, the Airbus cabin has a greater height, with an arguably roomier feeling.
What’s your take on the 737 MAX and A321neo planes for long Hawaii flights?