United Airlines started service on a brand new airplane yesterday, becoming the first North American airline to operate the new Boeing 737 MAX 9. The MAX 9 is the newest version of Boeing’s stretched, retooled and refreshed 737, the best-selling aircraft in the world in service since 1968. United also ordered 100 of the MAX 10 variety, due for delivery next year.
The MAX 9 will initially be based at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The first United 737 MAX 9 took off from Houston yesterday to Orlando. Later flights departed for Austin and Anchorage.
The aircraft’s Advanced Technology Winglets and increased fuel efficiency will allow United to fly routes as long as Houston to Anchorage without blocking seats. United previously operated larger Boeing 757-200/300 on the seven-hour route. The ETOPS-certified aircraft will also fly from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
United’s vice president of Houston Operations, Rodney Cox, told media the MAX 9 will be 14 percent more fuel efficient than existing Next Generation 737s, and promises a better experience for passengers.
The MAX 9 will eventually operate flights on the following routes:
- Houston – Ft. Lauderdale
- Houston – San Diego
- Houston – Sacramento
- Houston – Tampa Bay
- Los Angeles – Honolulu
- Los Angeles – Houston
While Houston to Anchorage is the longest planned United route for the MAX 9, at 3,266 statute miles, it’s within the plane’s published range of 4,000 statute miles (3,550 nautical miles).
A Packed Cabin
The MAX 9 features the same number of seats as existing 737-900 models, 179 seats, but will include more Economy Plus extra legroom seating – at the expense of full-sized lavatories. The MAX 9 features 20 United First seats and 48 Economy Plus – compared to 39 or 42 Economy Plus seats on other 737-900 models.
Economy Plus seats have 34 inches of pitch, while regular economy seats have “at least” 30 inches, as with existing 737-900 models. These seats won’t have DirecTV, as with many existing 737s, but the plane’s Wi-Fi will provide free streaming access to movies and shows through the United Private Screening interface.
The United seatmap shows the few subtle differences between the -900/-900ER and MAX 9. The slimline lavatories are visible, one at row seven and two aft, reminiscent of the much-loathed American Airlines MAX 8 lavs. United also installed and an odd one-row/two-row economy section between the exit rows and Economy Plus.
From a seating perspective, passengers will notice few subtle differences from the 737s already in United’s fleet, but there are other improvements that should make a difference.
The MAX 9 is equipped with CFM International Leap-1B engines. The engines follow some of the same design principals used in the GE GEnx engines installed on the United Dreamliners, including noise-reducing chevrons and carbon composite fanblades.
Not only is the engine more efficient, it’s also noticeably quieter throughout the cabin. Passengers onboard the inaugural flight noticed the unusually quiet cabin, even in the rear of the plane.