A couple of days back, I spent a lot of time at the Jet Airways hangar at the Mumbai Airport. The airline has been on a stream of signing up orders for the Boeing 737 MAX, having signed up two tranches of 75 planes this year itself, and having an earlier order of 75 planes, which was confirmed in 2015.
The airline received their first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft late last week, and on June 28, they had a media event lined up to unveil the new hard product they have inside the plane. Unfortunately, there was an air crash in Mumbai, and in the spirit of solemnity, the airline decided to cancel the celebrations last minute.
However, they indeed gave Live From A Lounge a tour inside the plane. This plane would enter commercial service on Sunday, July 1, 2018, onwards, and there are many routes it will fly in July 2018 so that many people can experience the new product.
Here is the new aircraft in all its beauty. When I flew out from Mumbai Airport yesterday morning, it was still there in the hangar!
What is the Boeing 737 MAX?
A bit about the Boeing 737 MAX first, and why it is referred to as a game changer for the airline. Jet Airways currently has the Boeing 737 MAX 8 on order, and for the later orders, they haven’t decided if they want the MAX 9 or MAX 10 or MAX 7. Boeing set about to develop this aircraft in 2011, and the first aircraft was delivered last year to Malindo Air.
The MAX is re-engined with more efficient CFM International LEAP-1B engines, aerodynamic improvements, including the now famous split scimitar winglets and various airframe modifications. Between these modifications, it gives the airline about 15% savings in the cost of operations of the aircraft, which, if you are running an airline, are a lot of money saved, in turn helping to keep prices low.
On the outside, there are many ways to realise that you are flying the MAX, the first one for Indian customers. You need to check out the Split Wingtips painted with the Jet Airways logo, or JetAirways.com on the engines and you would know you are flying a MAX.
The other way to find out is by using the tail number. VT-JXA is the first one, VT-JXB is the second one, and then the VT-JX_ series would be used by Jet Airways for the MAX aircraft.
Not just that, with the Boeing Sky Interiors, there is a feeling of more space in the cabin. A standard fit in all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
Additionally, Jet Airways has opted for the Space Bins, which will allow for more space to stow carry-on bags. Each of the larger Space Bins will hold six standard sized bags, two more than the large current Boeing Sky Interior pivot bins installed on many Next-Generation 737s.
Jet Airways is going for two different seat configurations in the 737 MAX 8. The first plane that has arrived has 12 Business Class and 162 Economy Class seats. The second one which would come in would have 12 Business Class and 156 Economy Class seats and would be flown on the international routes.
Premiere Gets a Makeover
The first of 225 planes looked like a great time to reimagine the hard product that Jet Airways was going to put into service. And they did not disappoint. The airline has gone with the Rockwell Collins MiQ Business Class seats, who are also the supplier of choice to American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and other airlines. The colour chosen is a shade of Aqua Blue, and the seats are all lined up in leather from Wollsdorf, which is a supplier of leather covers to the luxury car industry.
Besides, there are four-way adjustable headrests, a recline of up to 10 inches (roughly 60 degrees), a full-size bi-fold table and tonnes of space for personal item storage.
The meal tray is spring-loaded, which means you don’t have to fight with the table to bring it out, but press a button.
One feature which many people would not notice perhaps is the easy access provided with movable aisle armrest. This is built-in accessibility, making it easier for passengers with limited mobility to get in and out of their seats.
Jet Airways has chosen the path of bringing your own device when they installed JetScreen streaming entertainment systems. The new planes will carry forward the thinking. There are USB ports and universal plug point on each seat.
For Business Class customers, the experience doesn’t end there. In re-imagining the Business Class product, the airline has also provided for device holders, which are fitted into the trays itself. This small tray ensures your phone or your tablet has enough support to watch your content along with eating your meal or drinking your coffee.
You can use this flip extension on a fully-open table or a half-table as well.
There will be 12 business class seats in a 2-2 configuration with 3 rows of seats going forward as well.
Economy gets USB Chargers & Device holders
This is how 95% of us travel and hence the most important part of the plane. The airline has managed to add 6 seats due to the extended length of the fuselage, and all seats recline, except for the Emergency Exit row because of the regulation around it.
The Economy seats are all upholstered in faux leather as well and have features that enable you to fit your own devices on the seatbacks. You can also charge your devices while watching your movie in the air with the USB ports installed. Also, you could use the pockets in the seatback for putting your own stuff.
There is generous leg space in between the seats, though I don’t have the exact seat pitch right now and I would be able to report back on that separately when I manage to fly the plane.
It looked comfortable enough for a broad person like me so I am sure it should work for most people, except when someone has long legs.
In terms of the lavatories which have been a problem area for most airlines with the MAX, I found them easy to get into and move around. Though how I end up using the lavatory would be a different experience I need to find out when I would fly them.
Given most of these planes would be used for fleet replacement, Jet Airways has a good configuration on hand for two-three hour long flights. For longer flights, there will be a slightly different experience with more foot rests and other features added to the Business Class cabin. But for now, we need to see how this product works in real life, as it gets into service tomorrow.
What do you think about the new Jet Airways 737 MAX product? Love it, hate it or it doesn’t matter?