Sunday was the commercial launch of the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft for Jet Airways. Like we’ve mentioned before, Jet Airways has 225 of these on order, so, pretty much over the next many months and years, you will start to only see the Jet Airways 737 MAX in the air. The airline received their first Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the second half of June 2018.
I had already seen the hard product on the media event and reported it on earlier this past week. On Sunday, I had the first opportunity to fly the Boeing 737 MAX 8 on its first commercial flight between Mumbai and Hyderabad, and we took it.
Given Shipra and myself were spending the weekend in Hyderabad, we had cut it short to fly back to Mumbai on June 30, 2018 night, only to fly to Hyderabad again in the morning of July 1, 2018. We went home for a few hours to sleep in our bed, before being at the airport again in the morning again. I was all sorts of excited, because this was going to be my first Boeing 737 MAX flight on any airline.
I went over to the airport ticketing counter early in the morning, since the ticket had been booked and sent to an email address of mine I did not sync on the phone. Hence, I needed a print out to be able to get inside the airport. That was the first time the Jet Airways crew at the counter mentioned that we were one of the first people to fly the Jet Airways 737 MAX and congratulated us.
At the Premiere Check-in counter, again, we were congratulated. We were the first people to have booked up Premiere seats on this flight, so that was something for them.
We handed over the upgrade vouchers and collected the Business Class boarding passes, and then we took some pictures with the Guest Relations team at the airport. Jessica and Rukhsar from the check-in team were a great help, as they helped us get our boarding passes for the onward and return segments as well (We were coming back in the MAX itself on the return flight from Hyderabad to Mumbai).
After this, we were on our way to the lounge for a bit for breakfast. It was the perfect day to fly since the skies had cleared up, and we had a sunny day lined up for this flight.
While I’d wanted to be at the boarding gate before the boarding call, we took a while in the lounge, and as a result, when we arrived at the gate, the boarding had already started. However, this was another occasion to take a picture before the first flight. Other than that, it was business as usual for the airline. We were joined by the first family to have checked into Economy Class as well.
This was a great time as any to make another picture. We met the captain on the jetbridge who was going to fly the BOM-HYD-BOM segments. Captain Kush Agarwal and Captain Irani were piloting this flight.
Mumbai(BOM) – Hyderabad(HYD)
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Depart: 07:08 AM
Arrive: 08:33 AM
Distance flown: 385 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 737 MAX 8
Seat: 2F (Business)
Meal Service: Breakfast
Once on board, we were directed to our seat by the onboard crew, who again welcomed us to the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and informing us that it was the plane’s first flight. The Premiere cabin was 12/12 full for this first flight. Back in the day when I had booked my ticket, it was empty.
A few things to note about the new Jet Airways 737 MAX 8 Business Class product. There is a detailed post on the hard product here, but just a recap:
- Jet Airways has gone for the Rockwell Collins MiQ Business Class seats, which have an easy accessibility feature with all seats on the aisle being able to drop the armrest to bring in a wheelchair passenger, for instance.
- The choice of upholstery is leather in a light sky blue/green shade, with Wollsdorf being the supplier of choice.
- These planes will be flown primarily on domestic segments, and have a 4-way headrest
- The full-size foldable table is now spring loaded, so you don’t have to fight with the armrest to bring out the table.
- There are power port, USB port and a personal device holder in each seat.
Here are a few shots of the seat as we sat down.
About the choice of color, it looks bright but does not connect with the brand tenets at all. I was worried about these seats getting dirty easy, but we’ll have to see six months down the line how they are being maintained. I did receive inputs that a certain Business Class seat already had ball-pen marks.
As per Jet Airways in-flight literature, the seat pitch in business class has gone up from 40″ on the earlier Boeing 737 NG product to 42″ the new Boeing 737 MAX product. In terms of width, the seats are roomy at 22″, and padded well for a couple of hours flight, or three.
The only branding spotted with the Boeing 737 MAX was in the cabin controls panel which is in the front and back of the plane.
I was initially seated on 1A/1C with Shipra, but we changed our seats to 2D/2F to be able to try out the middle seats with the footrests. Another version of the configuration, which is the configuration for regional international primarily, would also have a footrest attached to the seat which can be controlled with in-seat controls.
The assistive bins had the capacity for more bags and looked bigger. However, somehow, everyone had filled up his or her bags in a very unoptimized fashion, so there were only three bags in the space of 6 carry-on bags here on an average per bin. I think the crew should have been more involved in this process, given people toss their bags in whichever way they want and this is not the way that we would ever get the cabin bags fitted optimally.
For literature, there is the seat back pocket which included the in-flight magazine, newspapers and the safety card. Jet Airways has also placed an information brochure talking about the MAX 8 new product.
For your personal belongings, you could use the vast amount of space in the seat under the armrest.
I quickly managed to visit the lavatory before take off. Jet Airways has chosen to install the much-talked-about slim lavatories on these planes. I visited the lavatory, found enough space to move around, and could use the lavatory without any issues. Here is a picture from the forward lavatory. I could stand forward facing comfortably. Although other people may have a different experience.
Once I got back on my seat, the cabin crew brought about the pre-departure beverages. My choices included coconut water, a mixed berry smoothie, and plain water. Both of us went with the coconut water. A cold towel service quickly followed this.
Menu cards were distributed after this. Jet Airways had an exciting set of meal options on this flight, including a couple of vegetarian options and the usual eggs for breakfast.
A new feature of the 737 MAX 8 was the overhead seat panels being realigned. There is an airconditioning vent that always stays on, even in economy class, and then there are personal vents for all seats. Also, the reading lights can now be positioned for the correct angle rather than just being behind protective glass and not being adjustable.
The plane filled up quite fast, all the way to the back in Economy Class as well.
We commenced pushback a couple of minutes later than our original scheduled time. All the Jet Airways ground handlers were waving bye to the plane and clicking pictures.
As the engines started up and we commenced towards the runway and then climbed out of Mumbai, I couldn’t help but notice the extreme quiet on this plane, which is an excellent addition to the passenger experience, powered by the CFM LEAP 1B engines.
We got some great views flying over south Mumbai after flying from the main runway and turning left for Hyderabad afterwards.
As soon as we were airborne and at cruise altitude, I tried to connect to JetScreen, the in-flight streaming content service. I was unable to find the wifi APN, so I later found out that JetScreen has still not been installed on this plane given they await regulatory permissions. Over the past two years, Jet Airways has made the switch to bring-your-own-device IFE, and the 737 MAX paxex emphasizes on that choice.
The meal services started almost immediately after climb completed. Moreover, this is where I noticed the big flaw with Jet Airways’ bring your device experience design. The intentions were noble, and Jet Airways wanted Premiere Customers to be able to eat and watch their movies at the same time.
So, they put a flip top on the food tray with grip to ensure your phone/tablet would hold up while the movie played and your food is served. This is how it should work in theory, with the grey strip accommodating your phone/tablet. (Read the whole hard product analysis here)
However, this is how it turned up when the food was served, and there was white tablecloth to cover the tray table.
This is an issue that Jet Airways needs to look into and fix quickly because this is not the desired customer experience.
Coming to the meal, I went with the North Indian choice of Amritsari Cholle and Parantha. Shipra went with the South Indian option of Pesaratu. Both turned out to be very nice meals.
The meals were delicious and served at the right temperature. I quite welcome the change of the croissant at Jet Airways, instead of the smaller, more buttery and flaky one. The cabin crew came back asking if they could bring any beverages for us, and we both went with some black tea. There are new retractable beverage holders in the centre armrest which come in handy.
Here is a picture of how the IFE would have ideally worked. Too bad, it was not on the plane on this flight. However, do note the 20% bigger windows on this plane. Good natural IFE.
After clearing up the crockery, the crew brought around a basket of tamarind candies for the Premiere Passengers as well.
It was a short, 1-hour flight, but enough to experience the entire Jet Airways Boeing 737 MAX 8 Premiere Cabin. Very soon, the captain came on the PA system to announce our descent.
At Hyderabad, the crew again welcomed the flight. No fire tenders to give the water cannon salute. Perhaps in line with Jet Airways’ thought process of giving their new aircraft a dry welcome.
Shipra and myself were supposed to return on the turnaround of the same plane to Mumbai, which would have been 30 minutes later. So, we immediately bolted out of the flight. Once outside, the Hyderabad team had organized a cake to commemorate the occasion.
I quickly went through transfer security and given I was travelling only with my wallet and my phone, we were able to get through the security check pretty quickly, in about a couple of minutes. Also helped that it was a Sunday and morning and no business travel was perhaps happening.
My experience on this aircraft is a mixed view. First, the Boeing 737 MAX is a great aircraft. Anything that helps keep airline economics, in fact, is a good thing, and all the engineering with this plane has a marvellous impact. The plane was quiet, and I loved it.
Now, for the hard product from Jet Airways. The seat colours look cool to me, but also stand out. No, connect with the blue and yellow brand colours at all. What worries me is how quickly they get dirty. IFE should be added soon to the new aircraft and an advisory that the JetScreen was not available would have been nice. But the in-seat power worked wonderfully.
If you want to fly the new Jet Airways 737 MAX 8, here are the routes you could fly in the month of July 2018. I will be publishing a separate review of the Economy Class in the coming days as well. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, shoot away, and I will be happy to answer them.
Have you flown Jet Airways in their brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft? Do share your views in the comments if you have about how did you like it?