N913AK on its takeoff roll from SEA on its inaugural revenue flight for Alaska Airlines on March 1, 2021 – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer Lindgren
On March 1 at 6:30 a.m., Alaska Airlines’ first Boeing 737 MAX 9 took to the skies from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on a flight to San Diego. That flight made Alaska the third U.S. carrier to place the MAX into service since the plane’s grounding was lifted at the end of 2020, and it was the first airline to place the plane into service that didn’t receive any of its orders prior to the grounding in March 2019.
What was it like? Alaska did invite the local news media and AvGeek outlets to cover the departure, but the event was tastefully subdued overall. The worst part? Getting up at 2:30 a.m. to get to the airport on time. The best part? The flight itself, of course. As we reviewed back in 2019 before the grounding, the MAX offers a fine passenger experience, even more so now that the tragic issues with the aircraft’s avionics have been sorted and certified.
The flight crew consisted of Alaska’s fleet captain and chief training pilot
During the standard preflight passenger briefing, the pilots commented on how much they liked flying the new aircraft, saying that Alaska did 50 hours of proving flights over 19,000 miles with that plane prior to putting it into line service, including several flights for employees. They also noted the MAX’s greater efficiency, saving 15% in fuel costs over the prior model.
As I experienced on Icelandair’s Max 8, the plane is noticeably quieter in the cabin than the NG-series planes the MAX replaces, even when seated near the engines
I flew in coach, seated in row 13 both ways, in the aisle southbound and at the window back to SEA. If you’re familiar with Alaska’s current 737 NG cabin configurations, the overall layout is the same, save for some nice detail improvements, including additional USB ports that are much more accessible, and a clever device holder in the seatbacks. All in all, the MAX 9 provides a very comfortable and surprisingly quiet passenger experience.
This was my first commercial flight in nearly 12 months, and the biggest change I noticed was how often the flight attendants came through the cabin to pick up trash. Well, that, and there were no hot meals, alcoholic beverages, or poured soft drinks offered – water and soda were dispensed in single-serving cans or bottles.
- A nicely-designed adjustable device holder features prominently on the new coach seatbacks
- Coach-class service during the times of COVID doesn’t look that much different than in times past
- The additional USB port (seen on the right side of the seatback) is far more accessible than the older style, which remain in their original location below the folding tray
Alaska has orders to take delivery of 68 MAX 9s, with options for an additional 52, so the MAX plays a primary role in the airline’s plan to modernize its fleet. Alaska plans to eventually divest itself of most of the Airbus A319/320ceos it acquired as part of its acquisition of Virgin America, coming closer to being an all-Boeing airline once again, although it does look like they’ll hang onto the 10 A321neos in their fleet for now.
The outbound flight to San Diego was quite full, with plenty of AvGeeks and Alaska Air crew in evidence. The return flight was considerably less full, more in line with what I’m told are more normal passenger loads given current COVID concerns.
- At the gate at SEA for an early-morning departure
- Local Seattle news media provided live coverage of the inaugural
- Gotta love those huge overhead Space Bins
Alaska is currently using N913AK on two daily roundtrip routes from Seattle; flights 482 and 539 to and from San Diego in the morning and early afternoon, and flights 398 and 705 to and from Las Angeles in the late afternoon and evening.
Here we are on the base turn over Elliott Bay in Seattle on the way back to SEA. The MAX’s engines are considerably larger than the NG.
Boeing’s latest addition to the 737 MAX lineup at its debut at the Renton assembly plant
Boeing’s revamped 737 lineup has gained even more forward momentum as the second iteration of the MAX series made a rainy-day debut this morning at Boeing’s Renton, Wash., assembly plant.
- The FAA requires test aircraft to display the word “experimental” prominently near the boarding doors
- LED landing lights are all the rage these days
- The scalloped nacelles on the CFM LEAP 1-B engines are similar to those on the 787 and are designed to reduce operating noise
- A peek at the innards of the CFM LEAP 1-B engines
With a maximum capacity of 220 passengers (in a very tight configuration) and a range of 3,515 nautical miles, the new single-aisle plane is roughly nine feet longer than the 737 MAX 8, which is expected to receive FAA certification in advance of its commercial debut in the coming months.
Boeing and Icelandair announced a commitment today for 12 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft. Currently, the airline only operates the Boeing 757, with a fleet of 23.
Boeing illustration showing what the Boeing 737 MAX will look like with Icelandair livery.
“This commitment is the result of our research into what aircraft manufacturers have on offer to help us strengthen and grow our fleet and our network towards the future,” said Bjorgolfur Johannsson, Icelandair Group president and CEO. “We have had a successful relationship with Boeing for decades and we are pleased to continue our cooperation for years to come.”
It appears that the airline will not be replacing their 757 fleet (although some of the older 757s will likely be rotated out of service) with the 737 MAX, but supplementing it.
Icelandair currently only operates the Boeing 757. Image by: Daniel Jones / djlpbb40.
“Over the past decades, Icelandair has successfully utilized its all-Boeing 757 fleet to establish its Reykjavik-based hub as an important gateway between Europe and North America,” said Todd Nelp, vice president of European Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The introduction of the 737 MAX to Icelandair’s operation will complement its existing 757 fleet and ensure the carrier’s continued expansion across both continents, offering significant fuel saving with unrivaled passenger comfort.”
The Icelandair livery has always looked quite impressive on the Boeing 757 and I feel almost equally so on the MAX. One has to love those yellow nacelles.
|This story written by… |
David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
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