Over the weekend I wrote about problems with American’s Boeing 737 MAX and in particular “design flaws” with the lavatory. It was revealing to me that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says he hasn’t flown on the controversial plane.
I shared this Q&A with an employee who described the 737 Max as “Mini.”
- Flight attendant: “The doors open in the lavs and nobody can get in or out. i don’t know if you’ve been on it”
Doug Parker: “I have not been on the MAX.”
Flight attendant: “If you gain an ounce you’re not coming down the aisle i assure you.” (laughter) “but what are they revamping anything on it or is this something that it is what it is?”
Doug Parker: “tell me what the issue is again, it’s the bathrooms?”
Flight attendant: “In the aft of the aircraft the two bathroom doors open up and they lock into each other. so now you got people coming out of the bathroom into the galley and then we have to shut the doors, let them out, and let the next two people to use the restroom… and the sink you get soaking wet because it’s so small you can’t get your hands in there, so it really has some design flaws”
When I flew on the 737 MAX using the lavatory sink meant water all over my shirt and pants. Doug Parker finds this funny,
The issue about water pressure was it spilled all over people (laughs), they’d turn it on it’s a small sink it would spray on them. That does not help your ‘likelihood to recommend’.
American’s Vice President, Customer Planning Jill Surdek says the lavatory doors that bump into each other were chosen to give customers more room. Going with a ‘bi-fold’ door that opens and closes inward takes away an inch of space. So they think they’re being customer-friendly as though a lavatory meant for smurfs was the only option.
They’re looking at changing to a ‘blade door’ that will take away more customer space but opens and closes more easily (and conveniently for flight attendants). This would be a ‘cutover’ and not a ‘retrofit’ meaning they’d just have one version of the door in some planes and a different version in others.
On the one hand Parker acknowledges the small lav is meant to get them an extra row of seats. On the other hand he seems to shift the blame to Boeing, and points out that they’re making decisions against customer comfort but they’re really just following rather than leading by themselves when they do it.
What did Delta do with these same lavs though, Delta had like the crew seat on the door or some ridiculous thing (cackles) that’s not a threat, I just.. I don’t know why I felt.. that’s really funny.. I don’t know why I felt compelled..
My only point in making this is gosh we want our product to be the best out there but we also need to understand we’re competing we gotta be really competitive, we have airlines like Delta looking to do.. so the bathroom is different than bathrooms you’ve seen in the past, that’s for certain it’s smaller.
That, you know, that in and of itself it has to be easy to access we shouldn’t make it to where you’re having to do what you do so we’ll fix that with the bi-fold doors.
All I was pointing out is, just know this is – that kind of smaller lav is where the industry is moving toward, not because of Spirit just because it’s more efficient, you can get more seats on there.
I just want to be sure our team knew that, because sometimes we get this ‘oh my gosh you guys are trying to do something that other airlines wouldn’t do’ this is a new product by Boeing where they figure out a way to make a smaller lav, where people aren’t spending most of their trip. I shouldn’t have brought that up, absolutely not a threat.
So it’s alright to have small lavs because you shouldn’t be bringing a book or take your iPad in to watch a movie. You’re only in there a short time. And since it’s Boeing coming up with this you shouldn’t blame American. They really had no choice, don’t you see?
It’s worth noting that American plans to add seats not just to their 737s but also to narrowbody Airbus planes as well. Today the airline has fewer seats in their A321s than Delta does — although two years ago Delta actually took 3 seats out of A320s and A321s because they were too dense and flight attendants didn’t have room to work in the galleys.
And Delta did not ever attach a crew seat to the lavatory door. However before they decided to add space back to the galley area two years ago the seat had to remain stowed in order to allow passenger access to the lavatories or for flight attendants to access galley carts.
Of course American features 10-abreast seating in their Boeing 777s while Delta hasn’t gone that densification route.