American Airlines 737Max8 “like a flying prison”

A close friend has recently been on a flight of the 737-8, the latest to enter American Airlines service. She’s not really a travel journalist – more like a corporate fireman, flying from city to city extinguishing problems nobody else can. She flies at least twice a week all over the United States. In ten years she’s racked up 2,656 flights. This is someone who knows what it means to fly on business but almost always chooses economy for the simple fact she gets a significant bonus for not flying business or first.

I asked her to tell me what it was like being such an important new aircraft type. Make some notes I begged, and to my surprise she did.

“It looks really smart as you board, a little bland, though and it’s no match for the Delta 737-900’s that are my favourites. What really struck me first was how hard it was to get to my window seat. It’s like there’s no gap for even a 5ft 4 slim female to get through! Talk about inelegant!”

“I suppose I should mention the overhead – well lack of space is what you notice. There’s no way that there’s enough room for a carry-on for even half the passengers- did you say this was a new design? Who’s idea is this?”

“Once I got to my seat watching the man who sat next to me, almost 6ft tall, trying to sit without manspreading into my space, was almost funny. He had no choice in the end and I get that. There was no way he could sit legs together in that seat. He was embarrassed and it seemed very uncomfortable”.

“Half way through the flight the only way he could get out was to pull himself up on the seat in front, apologising the whole time”.

“There’s no inflight entertainment either, if you haven’t got work to do and want to watch something on a three hour flight, bring your own or go without. It’s not good enough in the 21st century”.

“There is a tray, but it’s so small you can’t get a 15″ MacBook Pro on it and open it far enough to tilt the screen backwards”.

“The seats are so thin that you get knees in your back from the person behind. After an hour I was feeling trapped. I couldn’t work, there was nothing to watch. The seat width is almost tight and I’m just a size 8 female, it seems ridiculous. It’s starting to dawn on me this isn’t a flight I want to be on”.

“Having disrupted the entire row to get out and go to the bathrooms, what can I say? They’re like a vertical coffin, not two feet wide, the basin is so small it’s almost impossible to wash your hands. The water splashed out on my clothes, I’m not amused. I can tell you as well that if you’re 6ft your head is on the ceiling.”

“Getting back to my seat becomes another lesson in personal confinement. I’m sick of it. The seat pitch is just 30″ according to Jon but I measured it at 29.5″. I couldn’t honestly measure the width as the man next to me was as much in my seat as I was”.

“I’m not happy on this flight. I feel trapped, I feel like I’m just a number, a human commodity, I don’t like it. I’ve never felt like this on Delta, or JetBlue and certainly not on the soon to be missed Virgin America”.

“I admit American isn’t my favourite airline, but this has made me seriously re-evaluate ever travelling on them again. And it won’t be economy. If this is Americans idea of their future standards, they can keep it. Aviation enthusiasts might find it really interesting- I felt like I was in a flying prison”.

Tania flew on N304RB from Miami to New York.

16 thoughts on “American Airlines 737Max8 “like a flying prison”

  1. 2 quick questions.
    1-Was there something in the seatback that showed there is complimentary WiFi with a selection of FreeMovies, TVshows, etc. that you can watch on your smartphone, tablet or laptop? (And an upcharge for WiFi that will allow you to stream Netflix, Hulu, etc., as well.) It sounds like no one made an announcement. (And it’s an awful option if you don’t have a device like this, or you can’t even open your laptop.)

    2-Those overhead bins were supposed to be designed to accommodate a roll-aboard carry on size suitcase on its SIDE. Which would accommodate about 40 extra bags compared to the old versions. Sometimes it’s deceptive, but that’s what they were designed to have.)
    At 5’4”, it may have been hard to see that. Did she notice other people put those types of bags in?

    Still no excuse for the seat pitch or the poorly made seat. Even looking at that picture shows how short the seat bottom cushion is. Very uncomfortable for a long flight. Some of their routes will be 6 hours! Very sad. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I hate to break It to you… unless you want to pay hundreds more in choach, then you all need to get over the fact that screens and padding add weaight and that burns more fuel. Since you want to pay 100 bucks or less you find ways to cut cost.. surprise! You lose comfort! You are a human commodity! The consumer causes this.


    1. We’re all well aware of the economics, but American seem happy to follow the crowd rather than take a chance to innovate, they take a short term view of a long term opportunity.


    2. Yes, but they didn’t lower the prices did they? The prices are the same and AA is still one of the most profitable airlines, not small profits, but big bucks.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Nobody was, I just think that she didn’t expect it to be so poor for something so new. I think she was expecting a positive move forward ins seating and comfort, rather than one that went backwards.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Trolly Dolly… Sure, but if you pay for a hamburger you at least hope it is going to be as good as everybody else’s hamburger.

      So I think the msg here is don’t compare it to First/Business (which I don’t think the author was)… But if you can get an Economy ticket on a competitor airline for a similar price, you might be getting a better travel experience for the same buck$$$

      To continue your analogy… A better hamburger so to speak.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I think it’s more she paid for hamburger and got one pickle and a piece of dehydrated onion, no bun, no beef, not even any ketchup.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. She can pay for an extra legroom seat.

    But the American 737 is a new low with only 33 inches for the ‘extra legroom’ section.

    What’s frightening is she thinks the Delta 737-900 is a favorite. That’s a tight ship in its own right.

    UNITED is the leader in legroom these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m 6’4″ and a large guy. I have to fly American frequently, and regional jets around 70% of the time. I pay out of pocket for the extended rows just to prevent being crippled at the end of the flight. This is just crazy. I also always check a bag so I’m only putting my laptop bag in the overhead so I’m not fighting for that space as much. These new seats are an abomination

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I flew the Max and I didn’t think it was this bad. On my flight everyone’s bags were accommodated in the overhead bins which are the largest boeing makes. I found the lack of IFE a poor decision, especially this day in age. I want to use my personal device for browsing the web, etc and the screen in the seat for watching a movie. The WiFi was free for the moment since its a new plane, it worked great when it was on, about half the flight it didn’t work from MIA-LGA. I was in the exit row so the seat wasn’t an issue for me, but most people when I walked through the cabin didn’t seem to be too uncomfortable. Basically I saw it as a quieter 737-800 without IFE which isn’t going to be great for the long flights. Oh the bathroom space did suck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the point is that there is a degree of legroom we expect as standard and shouldn’t have to pay more for. Squeezing the life out of us is going the other way, offering more than sub-optimal smacks of extortion. It does depend on flight length. For an hour I personally don’t care much, for 1.5-3 hours I do. Over that and I personally will not fly economy.

      Liked by 1 person

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