Boeing 737 MAX Inaugural Flight: What American’s New ‘No Legroom’ Plane Is Really Like

American Airlines almost introduced coach seats with 29 inch pitch coach seating — that’s the distance from seat back to seat back — on their new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Not all the coach seats, just a few rows. And there was an outcry from the public and from embarrassed employees, since the current standard for a mainline legacy airline is 31 inches.

They backed off the 29 inch plans but their new standard is 30 inches in coach. The idea is to squeeze in more seats, and they doing it by taking away legroom both from first class and economy, by shrinking the lavatories, and by uncovering every inch of underutilized space on the plane. Even the bulkheads between first class and coach are gone.

In late September American Airlines displayed their new seats at Media and Investor day in Dallas. I didn’t like them, but you can’t really get a sense for what it’s like to sit in a slimline seat with less padding (to give back legroom, since the seats are closer together) by plopping down in one for a couple of minutes in a hotel ballroom. I needed to experience it on a flight.

I booked myself onto American’s inaugural Boeing 737 MAX 8 this morning from Miami to New York LaGuardia to see what it was like up close and personal.

I booked into economy and took myself off the upgrade list. I sat myself in regular economy, not Main Cabin Extra so I’d get the 30 inches of pitch. I did get to board the plane early to take photos.

    It turns out the seats themselves are no worse than American’s current coach product. The power and overhead bin situation is an improvement.

    First class is a modest downgrade with less legroom and the ‘new US Airways seats’ that have less recline. Avoid row 6.

Features of Coach on the 737 MAX

The word is ‘densification’ this plane is all about squeezing in more passengers. When US Airways took over American they increased the number of seats onboard 737s from 150 to 160. Now they’ve managed to get 172 onto the plane.

Part of how they do it is by stealing back an inch of legroom from pretty much every seat. They make up for the lack of seat ‘pitch’, giving back legroom, by installing a thinner seat. Those may not be great on your back and your bum. They give you extra space at chest and eye level by not offering seat back television screens (which are heavy and burn fuel) and limiting how much the seats recline (2 inches versus 4 inches).

There’s a bit of extra seat width which comes from pushing seats flush up against the windows, but that means angling your leg against the window if you’re in the window seat. And they’ve narrowed the armrests somewhat.

On the other hand there are real innovations in the seat. The tablet holder is around chest level and is separate from the tray table.

And it’s right beside the USB port which is brilliant. There’s AC power at every seat as well, it’s underneath the seat in front of you rather than underneath your own seat so it’s easier to get at.

The aircraft has satellite internet which is faster than air to ground, and huge overhead bins that store bags sideways offering much greater bag capacity but unfortunately passengers don’t realize this and naturally want to stow their bags flat rather than on their sides.

Flight attendants went around moving bags to utilize the space more effectively. Customers are going to need some training to take advantage of this great feature.

How Do You Even Go to the Bathroom In This Thing?

To squeeze in more seats they shrunk the lavatories. I fit but my sides touch the wall and the sink while facing the toilet.

I really don’t know how someone 250 pounds or more is going to fit, but perhaps more importantly how do you change a diaper in this thing? There’s a changing table that folds down but the lavatory is so narrow you’d better potty train your kid before they’re taller than the lavatory is wide. Are there going to be more dirty diapers being changed in coach?

The sink is tiny, which seems cute at first until you try to use it. It’s not deep or wide enough to hold water in. Water comes out of the faucet, skips out the basin, and sprays everywhere. Everywhere includes all over your shirt of course, but also over the lavatory and the lav door. Since they aren’t going to increase the size of the lav American may wind up having to reduce the water pressure to a trickle.

American Airlines flight attendants, whom you can rarely get to serve a pre-departure beverage in first class, actually cleaned up the lavatories between passengers because they unavoidably began to resemble the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.

Here by the way is the first class lavatory which I checked out on the way off the aircraft.

The lavatories are a real problem and something out of a Saturday Night Live skit parodying the airlines. I hope you don’t have to pee while flying American. My advice: Hold it.

Observations About Seat Selection

The overhead bins above rows 9 and 10 on the left side are used for equipment storage, there’s no bin space for customers. Fortunately all the other bins are huge.

However they make two of the three Main Cabin Extra rows potentially less desirable. Row 8 is the first row of coach, the first row of Main Cabin Extra, but since there’s no bulkhead there is storage under the first class seat ahead of it (row 6).

Since there’s no bulkhead and even in Main Cabin Extra the seats are close together, passengers in the first row of coach put their feet up against row 6, the last row of first. That makes row 6 less desirable for first class passengers.

The last row of coach sits right back up against the lavatory wall. Recline is limited for all seats, but even more so for the last seat.

Out of the extra legroom seats the exit rows seemed more spacious than the 3 rows at the front of the cabin.

But How is First Class?

‘Densifying’ economy isn’t all a plot to get you to fly first class. There’s less seat pitch in first class, too (37 inches versus 38 inches currently) and less recline as well (effectively four inches instead of six).

These are the ‘new US Airways first class seats’ that are also the base that they used to build international premium economy.

There’s a cup tray but it’s a single slide out tray shared between two passengers rather than each passenger getting a drink tray.

My Inflight Experience

The plane wasn’t full, coach departed 142 out of 156. I had an empty middle seat next to me which meant I could work, but I was disappointed, that empty middle made the flight experience much better… which wasn’t what I was looking for on the test run, we don’t usually get to fly with empty middles.

During boarding I heard passengers complaining “they announced it was a new plane but no TVs? really?”

There’s free internet temporarily, but it stopped working at several points during the flight. I don’t know whether coincidence or not but disconnecting and re-connecting seemed to do the trick a couple of times but not every time. Speed was disappointing.

The internet should be an improvement though it isn’t clear if just too many people are using it while it is free, American is unwilling to buy enough bandwidth, or there are kinks to be worked out. There was an employee from Viasat on the flight.

I don’t mind the legroom as such it is the proximity at chest and head level that is an issue. It makes me feel claustrophobic.

But having the empty seat next to me really mitigated that. The real challenge came trying to work and type because I had to keep my laptop at a 45 degree angle resting on my chest instead of the tray table, I thought when the passenger in front of me reclined that was the end of work entirely but I just angled the computer a bit more and rested it further up my chest.

We were a full hour in the air before they began inflight drink service, and they announced that everyone should remain seated while they’re doing it. Everyone got drinks and Biscoff cookies.

I plugged my laptop in and my phone, so I was fully charged throughout the flight. Power and (in theory) satellite internet are real pluses for this plane.

So How Was It Overall?

Ultimately there are some nice innovations with the seat. I like the tablet holder, and I like that it’s right next to the USB power port. I like the placement of the AC power port. I like gate-to-gate high speed wifi. I like the bright Boeing Sky interior and the oversized overhead bins. But it’s possible to have all of these things and reasonable seat pitch. It’s reasonable to have all these things and a lavatory that a person fits into.

How do I know? Because when I fly Southwest I don’t have to angle my laptop so that the base sits against my chest and the screen fits against the seat in front of me. I don’t have to type at a 45 degree angle, forcing a posture that’s bad for my back. I had a back ache starting just 45 minutes into the flight.

American says they aren’t going to fly these planes transatlantic, even though they’re capable of doing so. However they’re retrofitting all their 737s with this interior, and that’s the plane they fly Miami – Seattle which is just as long Westbound as an East Coast transatlantic flight is Eastbound.

Bottom-line I have two conclusions to offer:

  1. The new 30 inch pitch slimline seat that’s going to be American Airlines standard isn’t worse than the existing worst legacy US Airways seat they’ve been flying, and the wifi and power makes this net net somewhat better. (It’s a definite downgrade from legacy American Airlines coach, and there’s only 3 rows of extra legroom seats to escape regular economy which is a bummer.)

  2. But it’s worse than flying Southwest, so if you aren’t going to be seated in Main Cabin Extra you should avoid flying American if you can — same as today — and fly Southwest, JetBlue or even Alaska instead.

The new 737 MAX coach seat isn’t the worst thing in the sky as I had feared! But that’s only because there’s some pretty bad seats flying around today already.

The truth is that many legacy US Airways coach seats feel just as tight, my complaints about space are really complaints about economy — as it’s experienced today on American Airlines, United, and Delta — more than they are complaints about this economy. The lavatories though are absurd.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t fly AA already so this isn’t an issue but it’s good to know I should continue to stay away. I’m surprised Ryanair didn’t come out with that lavatory first though…

  2. Thank you for your sacrifice sitting in the new economy. Found your comments useful and supports my decision to abandon my current Plat Exec status in favor of Southwest and Alaska for next year.

  3. Super useful, thanks! The lack of a divider between first and coach seems especially egregious (not that I ever get upgraded anyways of course…).

  4. Looks so much like the new WN interiors but with less legroom. I know what I will be flying more domestically.

  5. I’m glad the seats are OK. I expected them to be. Because while there is huge financial incentive for the airlines to cram as many seats as possible into their aircraft, there is also some financial incentive for them to not make the experience miserable (if it’s miserable, you might be tempted to fly another carrier).

    I do wonder about the new bathrooms. Some of the other new Boeing models have “slimline” bathrooms — which I’ve found to be small, but serviceable. Are these even smaller? That sinks looks narrower than what I recall seeing on other new aircraft.

    There does seem to be some good innovation in coach seat design these days. I’ve flown on aircraft with WN’s new seat, and I think it works well. WN, however, did not use the redesign to add more seats (at least to my knowledge).

  6. i’ve already been inside quite of those so-called “innovative” bathrooms on various airlines that’s nothing more than Boeing’s kowtowing to Ryanair. (and Airbus is no saint either by hard-selling ULCCs to fill their cabins as close to the 240 certified max of the A321 as possible)

  7. Good review, spelling feedback, should probably read bags, as in they were moving bags to lay on their thin side, rather than flat “Flight attendants went around moving to utilize the space more effectively.”

  8. Once the refit hits the route I fly that’ll be the end of my AA travels. I only fly AA now because a very early morning flight allows me to sleep at home an extra night, guess that’ll change at some point.

  9. @mon — Nothing wrong with picking WN for domestic travel, but if you’re REALLY doing it for the coach seat comfort, that’s pretty silly. The difference is just not material. You have to get to Frontier/Spirit levels of discomfort to make it meaningful to anyone who’s not holding a grudge against any particular airline.

  10. @iahphx, disagree. Flying domestic flight in the new WN seats was really nice. Lots of legroom and recline was good. Better than most of my AA flights even on current seats (except for the AA transcon which I really like). I feel it a lot, but I am of slightly longer and larger size so it does make a big difference. I mean if you are like 5’6″ then sure its all the same, but if you are above 6′ then those small differences matter A LOT.

    The icing on the cake is the constantly good service on WN. Happy FAs, GAs and good customer service when calling. AA isn’t bad, but I feel like excellent service is the outlier rather than the norm on AA, while its the other way around on WN.

  11. I HATE HATE HATE these new slimline seats. It is like sitting on a concrete bench for hours. I have actually reduced my flying over 50% this year just to avoid sitting in them when FC is full. It’s not worth hurting my back or legs for days after each flight.

  12. I really don’t understand why American has seen fit to get rid of personal TVs, and this is where I approve of what Delta is doing. Delta is using old planes, small seats (though not quite as small ) and a crappy loyalty program BUT they distract from all of this by fully overhauled interiors and entertainment at every seat. You have a perception that you are on a higher quality airline while doing it.

    As a frequent traveler, I don’t have time to stock up my (business) computer with shows, and neither do I want to haul around an unnecessary tablet when making cross-country treks (I don’t even own one, because tablets are a waste of money).

    Air Canada did the MAX well. They maintained the 31″ seat pitch, have WiFi onboard, good Business Class seats, and large entertainment screens with plugs at all seats. Essentially, they’ve matched their widebody fleet seats, which means a very consistent experience (for better or worse, it’s still tight) across almost their whole fleet.

  13. @mon — Flying WN’s new seat was “really nice”? You’re easy to please — or just looking for a reason to keep flying WN. I liked their new seat: I thought it was a good idea, a marginal improvement, and I’m glad they did it. But I can’t imagine it making any difference in my travel habits. It would be like switching airlines for a stroopwafel. There are still 25 more important factors that come into consideration when buying air travel.

  14. Great review Gary, this is the kind of post I come here for. Unfortunately I wont’ be knowingly flying on these birds, unless I have no other choice. Doesn’t sound like much fun.

  15. All I can say is Welcome Back Gary, its great! having the old Gary back. this is how I remember your posts rather then the Click Bait they have been lately. I hope you leave click bait back in the dust

    IMO its far better not to post anything then to post pure click bait and info that has been all over the place already.Id take Quality over Quantity every day of the year. Now if you can only get that message to the other bloggers on BA, then BA can return to what it started out as a Quality site

  16. Americans spend BILLIONS of dollars on products for back pain and issues every year. I have arthritis in my back, my husband has rods & hardware in his. It seems that half the folks I know have some sort of back issues and this seems ridiculous to remove what little padding they have and crunch it up even more. I’m afraid that this idea will backfire on them eventually as most Americans will eventually tire of the uncomfortable mess unless they must fly for work.
    What I really don’t understand is WHY can’t any of these so called “geniuses” figure out that if they give folks a PLEASANT flying experience, they’d return again and again and probably wouldn’t mind spending a little more for it? I know we ALL price compare to some extent if you’re paying for it out of pocket (thus Expedia, Travelocity, etc) but if some Exec with an airline would say “Hey, we’re going to come up with a QUALITY product and TELL people we want them to ENJOY flying again (think Golden Age of Travel for a promo ad) and offer a perk or two, who wouldn’t pay an extra $25 or $50 bucks for that ticket? Instead of trying to make everyone miserable for what?
    Even the math would work….say a flight is $300…you charge $350 for comfy seats.
    Instead of $51,000 for the 170 seats you charge $52,500 for 150 seats.
    You reduce compaints, security incidents from disgruntled, uncomfortable passengers, etc.
    Americans are ALL ABOUT bragging rights, make yourself the airline everyone WANTS to fly! But who am I to think that corporate execs have any COMMON SENSE?

  17. Gary, a very balanced and well written review. Thanks for jumping onto one of these quickly and sharing your experience. Removing the coach/first bulkhead divider is ridiculous. When I pay for first, some of the reasons I do so in addition to wanting seat comfort, is the added privacy and quiet. With the bulkhead eliminated, I really don’t even feel inclined to pay for first to avoid the 30″ slimline seats. I’ll avoid this plane and all other 737’s with this setup. Would rather give my money to Jetblue or Southwest, or pretty much any other airline because of the the bean counting crooks at AA.

  18. Alaska’s 737’s are also starting to have these tiny bathrooms. It makes me want to wait until the cart is in the aisle so that I “have” to go to the bathroom in front, which is noticeably bigger.

  19. Gary, how far up do the headrests extend? As designed it looks like they would be between my shoulder blades. Some of the new seats have been downsized in height also making for a torturous ride if you can’t slump in your seat and use 2 pillows for lumbar support which these seats appear to have none.
    Anyone bang their shoulders into and destroy the windscreen between coach and first on your flight? That design looks like it will last a few weeks before being removed.
    Like automobiles designed for fuel economy vs comfort these new seats might best be suited for the Asian market where smaller people are normal.
    Next they will try and design an extra seat for the vertically challenged under the seat in front of you! You know what happens when you have too many rats in too small of a space?

  20. Are these seats wider than the standard 737? I thought that was suppose to be one of the perks of the MAX.

  21. Gary I love this comment:

    “The new 737 MAX coach seat isn’t the worst thing in the sky as I had feared! But that’s only because there’s some pretty bad seats flying around today already.”

    Soon the seat will have no padding and if I tell American that they can get another 10 seats in there maybe they will try it

  22. Very helpful and informative review. Appreciate you making the coach sacrifice.

    It seems that whenever there are legacy USAir people involved, they inevitably make the wrong decision for the customer experience. When do you suppose the USAir people will be moved out? I guess I’ll keep flying Southwest, and if necessary, United. They seem to be getting their act together a little bit.

  23. I’m disappointed (but not surprised) to see the coach aisle seats have the reduced width legroom from the misaligned seat support. That’s getting pretty common, but is a real annoyance for me.

    And I wonder why airlines don’t do a half-bulkhead that extends from the ceiling down to seat level. It seems like the best of both worlds, more privacy and no seat kicking for F pax, and good legroom for the bulkhead Y pax.

  24. Gary,
    Thanks for this good, useful thorough report. Frankly I think you are being generous, but just looking at the pictures in my own living room makes me claustrophobic.
    Americans get larger and the American seats get smaller.
    Any studies on how many people are just staying off the planes as things get worse and worse?

  25. The first class seats seem to be the same ones American has installed on its long-haul fleet as Premium Economy, though the real main differences are a seat pitch decrease (38 to 37 inches) and the removal of seatback entertainment screens.
    The economy class seats are the same seat (B/E Aerospace Meridian) that will be coming to United’s 737 MAX 9 aircraft next year, though for some reason I’m willing to assume United will install an inch or two more legroom on their MAXes.
    I’m really against the notion of aircraft removing entertainment screens for their domestic fleets, but for airlines, it’s a game changer since so much money could be saved. At least these aircraft aren’t put onto long-haul flights. Scoot’s 787s generally fly 10-hour flights with streaming entertainment that costs money to use (not surprised given that they’re a low-cost carrier, though U.S. airlines are on their way to becoming LCCs as well).

  26. First class seats look awful. but I’m glad to see that the exit rows no longer have the tray tables in the armrest. For whatever reason, on the 737, the exit row seats are EXTREMELY narrow. Won’t be the case on this plane.

  27. Great review. Maybe I’ll actually see one of these if AA ever retires the MD80s they keep flying to/from my home airport.

  28. This already sad & depressing looking “new” 737 is just another item to add to our already long list of reasons why we long ago stopped flying this exceptionally bad airline.

    Even if that means taking connecting flights on Southwest to MaCarthur Airport in Islip, Long Island instead of a nonstop to LaGuardia or JFK airports, which are much closer to Manhattan.

    For reasons noted elsewhere, we stopped flying AA after one too many, not just bad, but truly awful experiences with this exceptionally horrible airline, that as this despicable “new” airplane makes clear, could give a rats tushie about its fare paying passengers.

    The day I see photos posted on Instagram by ordinary passengers showing Doug Parker REGULARLY sitting the the middle seat of the very last row of this truly unconscionably & despicably configured, stripped down, amenity free airplane and its circa 1970 entertainment-lacking, “vintage” flying “experience” featuring hard a cement blocks, no legroom seats, with him entering/exiting those shameful, teeny-tiny, micro-bathrooms Doug Parker certainly CANNOT FIT INTO COMFORTABLY HIMSELF (NB: he’s very tall, and at least when I met him at several airline industry conferences attended in years past, broad in an athletic build sort of way…) for his cross-country, or even “short hops” between ORD-LGA, or MIA-LGA, where this newest member of the “flying abominations” club will be flown, is the day I shut up and stop “ranting” about how vile & disgusting the people who design & buy these “densified” planes that they themselves NEVER, EVER actually fly the way most of us do.

    So, since the chances of seeing Dougie P, Oscar M or any of the other hypocrites who sell a disgusting, cramped, intentionally uncomfortable & horrible product they themselves don’t bother using, or would only use long enough to feign use for a photo op instead of actually using the product regularly and experiencing the same awful conditions they demand others do, all while collecting money, too, for something they’d NEVER, EVER PAY FOR OR USE THEMSELVES (say the way Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest does at his airline, or as David Neeleman frequently did when he was CEO of Jetblue), is unlikely to happen anytime soon…

    …I’ll just keep ranting away about how our arrogant, clearly greedy, oligopolist, airlines need to be reeled in, even if that, unfortunately, requires legislative or regulatory intervention (in the future, of course, when our current “moment” of insanity finally comes to an end, as it surely will…eventually )…

    …for if this sad & depressing “new” airplane that has all the charm of the first 737s that rolled off the assembly line in Renton, WA in 1967 (or so) …with EVEN, OR ACTUALLY, MUCH LESS ROW PITCH/LEGROOM than the 737s of that era, that also come equipped without any seatback IFE like airplanes of that era did, all with harder, cushionless, intentionally uncomfortable seats, plus bathrooms so small even Fivel the Mouse would barely have enough room to poop, isn’t the testament to greed run amok, then nothing is…

    …when we’ve reached the point where companies actually feel emboldened to compete by seeing who can race the farthest, fastest, to the bottom, to see who can get away with it, with others playing “follow the leader” of who can lead the way to become the worst, instead of the best, then something is clearly wrong…

    This atrocious plane, a plane that even an AA flight attendant recently told me they and nearly all FA’s would rather work instead of be seated on when they deadhead, very much is an example of an industry that has gotten out of control, and is only interested taking money from passengers and offering as little, if anything, in return.

    And yes, this horrible, crappy little airplane which AA intends to make the mainstay configuration for most of its fleet, is a perfect example of what happens in industries that lack meaningful competition, have high – or for airlines nearly insurmountable – barriers to entry….which is the very definition of an oligopoly.

    One really doesn’t need to pore over the chapters in any Econ 101 book to know this…but hey, if anyone still doubts just how out of control our airlines have become now that they now believe they can offer “service” (if one can actually even call it that…) EVEN WORSE than airlines in the past such as Pan Am, Eastern, Tower Air, TWA, just to name a few, all of which are long gone because their service was so horrible, because back then passengers, when they actually had REAL options, avoided these airlines that had better service and more comfortable planes than we now have at the few remaining airlines who nominally, if at all compete, whenever they could…

    Yep, that’s right…when passengers could avoid airlines with service this bad, or even better than what we now have, guess what???

    …THEY DID!!!

    Unfortunately, far too many people don’t know this, but our current crop of sleazy, and dishonest airline management teams do…they just don’t want you to know, so they keep coming up with fictional tales about everything they do is being done for you, instead of to SCREW YOU…as they now love to do while they laugh their coddled bums that never sit in the seats we do…all the way to the bank!!!

    Just sayin’…but hey, this dispicable 737 still, or SHOULD, make clear to all but the most hopelessly selfish & greedy parasites among us better than ANY of my “rants” ever could just how badly the lack of competition is emboldening our nation’s airlines to put the screws to, and screw, their passengers…

  29. “Soon the seat will have no padding and if I tell American that they can get another 10 seats in there maybe they will try it”
    @robertw: I think you hit on the next upsell item. “Flight attendents will now be coming thru the aisle to sell you padding for $25”.

  30. Great writeup and very informative. Sounds like even more reason to get exit row seating, with the reduction in main cabin extra inventory and reduced pitch in first class.

  31. I know that onboard entertainment adds weight but the lack of it here is one of the biggest fails of all. I cannot believe they are gonna use these planes on some transcon routes. I don’t carry a tablet when I travel so the “tablet holder” is useless and I think customers will definitely notice the lack of onboard entertainment. Why on earth would you fly this product when you could take JetBlue? I intend to religiously avoid these planes when I fly AA.

    @iahphx such a terrible product will become a decision factor in which airline to travel for most customers, especially those not locked into elite tiers of a loyalty program already. Hell, I am a very loyal Oneworld frequent traveller and I will go out of my way to avoid domestic legs on AA once this configuration is standard on much of the 737 fleet.

  32. @Kerry — “Such a terrible product”? What the heck. It’s not a terrible product. It’s a normal product. It’s what you get when you fly coach. You want a terrible coach product? Fly an AA 767-300 on an international flight like I recently did. That plane should be scrap metal. This new aircraft is what domestic coach is going to be. It’s fine. It’s not luxurious, but it’s what it is. There’s a lot of bellyaching here over nothing.

  33. iahphx, are you still an airline shareholder? Maybe that explains trying to defend the miserAAble product that this is. I’m no sadomasochist, so I can’t be a fan of what AA has done with making the already miserable airline passenger experience even worse than it already was when flying AA.

    These AA economy class seats are way less comfortable than even the most threadbare of seats were on AA’s MD planes.

  34. No IFE?!?
    The Race to the bottom is on!
    Profits! Profits! Profits!
    When most coach seats are 30 inches apart, the next step will be 29 inches, and so on…
    Let’s make flying coach awful so they pay to upgrade.
    I won’t, I’ll just stop flying.

  35. Sorry, iahphx, it IS a terrible product. I honestly wonder how people can be duped into thinking misery is really fine. It is like being sold cardboard and being told that it is the latest thing in healthy hamburger. Some percentage of the public will actually believe that is the new normal. Do you believe the things you say?
    I can manage my own inflight entertainment (read a book!) but I cannot create my own tolerable in-flight personal space. Sniff it. This NOT Shinola.

  36. Tablet holder or not, using ones own device, be it an iphone, or the ipad mini, that is also a constant companion, actually is a nuisance to use for IFE…

    …It just is…

    I’ve flown many flights in the past 12 months, on Southwest, Delta and United, and if we include 2015, then a great many more flights including Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Jetblue, Delta & United, too, in both steerage & cabins in the pointy end to destinations near & far…

    If I fly Southwest, whose streaming IFE is light years better than United’s increasingly common DirecTV NO MORE circa 1970 “vintage-like” 737s featuring some of lamest, and mostly unwatchable, program offerings imaginable on its streaming IFE was on the two flights taken earlier this year, I’ll accept the trade-off for what without a doubt is still a vastly inferior, cheap substitute, than what Jetblue and Delta, offer with their vastly superior seat-back IFE selections and overall experiences, if only because what Soutwest lacks with its lowly streaming IFE, it more than makes up for in other ways (usually, anyway, or so we hope, that is, since the nearly complete and total neglect of disabled pax we encountered at BWI last Friday nite was a shocking, and unexpected, disappointment…) with its far better passenger friendly business model featuring two checked bags, $5 cocktails, no change fees, and even when failing to deliver wheelchairs or provide attendants to assist the disabled pax, which the captain took upon herself to do after learning of the lengthy wait the remaining disabled pax on the otherwise empty 737-800 had already experienced, the vast majority of friendly, helpful employees Southwest still has – that many other airlines seem to have so many fewer of…

    In fact, the comparison between a fixed, seatback, IFE screen/monitor, featuring a substantial library/catalog of programs and/or a wide selection of channels **NOT** ESPN, ESPN2, the Golf Channel, NFL Channel, CNBC and Faux News for those whose tastes and political leanings are far more modern and diverse than the typical fare shown on those channels that most airlines already have a lot of, but which tend to predominate on airlines whose IFE is more limited than on those with modern, seatback IFE, is NOT even close.

    Apart from the far less robust programming options experienced using streaming services on either United or Southwest, be it seat-back IFE on United’s (sadly) increasingly fewer 737s with DirecTV (which I actually did get to enjoy unexpectedly last week on that airline – and still love WAAAYYYY more than any other airline’s, even Jetblue’s original 36 channel LiveTV IFE), or its long-haul 757s with on demand programming using seatback monitors; Jetblue’s game-changing (when introduced) and still iconic LiveTV; Delta’s excellent seatback IFE on its otherwise atrocious narrow-body 737s; the seatback IFE on Aer Lingus which was hardly the latest or greatest; or the very nice, and larger than seen before or since IFE monitors experienced in Classe Premier aboard AeroMexico’s 787-8 from JFK to MEX just shy of two years ago, no matter what anyone says, there’s STILL NO COMPARISON between the ease of use, or overall quality, of IFE systems featuring seatback monitors, especially those with newer, larger and higher res ones than earlier generations and the cheap as crap, practically afterthought, streaming IFE requiring one to use, and hold with their hands…switch with their hands…juggle with their hands during beverage and pretzle/stroopwafel service…babysit…stabilize…prevent from slipping off their lap, tray table, etc., etc., etc., nuisance that is what streaming IFE using my ipad or my partner’s iphone have all been each and every time we’ve flown on airplanes recently lacking real, modern day seat-back IFE that otherwise have all the “fun” and “charm” of staring at the back of the seat in front of you once had when you flew on a 707, 727, 737, DC-8 or DC-9 back in the day…circa 1970…

    Simply put, streaming IFE to ones own device SUCKS.


    I’ve done it enough now to know this with absolute certainty based on a year’s worth of multiple flights to know just how much of a pain in the butt it is to actually use versus the fictionalized tales told by Dougie P at American, or at other airlines like United that keep telling their passengers (certainly NOT themselves) the lie that streaming IFE is actually “better” than, let alone even comparable to, the seatback IFE monitors and other equipment they’re ripping out of their planes simply to rip off their passengers more than they already do, and to line their pockets even more than their already excessive and obscenely high salaries also aready do…

    What a load of bullcrap!!!

    It’s just another nuisance and inconvenience passenger hating, miserly, racing to the bottom as fast as we can, product awful, airlines like American or United falsely claim are “passenger pleasing innovations” when they’re really nothing more than cynical, cheap, cost cutting moves by greedy airlines for whom greed knows no bounds, but the utter lack of meaningful competition makes entirely possible for them to get away with.

    Now consider recent photos posted in this blogisphere featuring the upcoming cabin refreshes for Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and the other much, much, much better than our sucky, greedy as can be, crappy airlines like American and United are, where even in coach, and even in those atrocious, “densified”, ten abreast rows on 777s that Emirates flies (albeit at least with 32-33” pitched rows…whew!) there’s beautiful, large, high-res, seatback IFE monitors at each and every seat, for each and every passenger, to enjoy…

    …is it any wonder why our selfish, greedy, airlines want to get rid of some of these formidable competitors who offer vastly superior, truly passenger preferred, and multiple award winning, inflight service and products including modern, state of the art seatback IFE, by any means necessary???

    I mean, SERIOUSLY, would anyone REALLY choose to be stuck for hours on end on one of American’s sad, depressing, streaming IFE via a BYO handheld device 737s like the one pictured above if they could instead fly on Emirates or Singapore Airlines amazing and award winning ICE and Kris (respectively) IFE equipped planes – or even “just” Jetblue’s or Delta’s fleet when equipped with modern, seatback IFE???

    After nearly a year filled with far too many 737 flights featuring the circa 1970 “vintage” inflight “experience” on both United and Southwest requiring use of my ipad to have any IFE be it streaming or preloaded from itunes, last week’s surprise change by United a few days before departure to a DirecTV equipped 737-800 from one that when booked a few weeks earlier indicated would be one where the DirecTV was no more was not just a welcomed and pleasant surprise…

    …it also served to illuminate just how inferior the entire streaming to ones own device IFE experience really is, and why any airline that thinks this cheap, DECIDEDLY INFERIOR and exceptionally POOR SUBSTITUE for IFE versus a nice, updated, advanced, seatback IFE featuring a crisp, larger, high res video monitor and a robust selection of programming is kidding itself if it thinks passengers won’t eventually see right thru the fictionalized tales they’re being told about how a future of streaming IFE to handheld devices is better than the recent past and currently being introduced nextgen IFE systems much better airlines than American or United like Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Jetblue or even the proud to be “best of the worst” Big 3 US airlines, Delta, all of which are EXPANDING and UPDATING instead of ripping out, their seatback IFE systems…

  37. Thanks for reconfirming why JetBlue remains the best NYC to Florida product in economy. Even as AA Platinum I definitely wouldn’t book this in economy without 100% advance confirmation that I’d get upgraded. Just not worth it. No TV screens at every seat? It’s almost 2018 folks.

  38. @Steven M:

    RE: “It’s almost 2018 folks.”

    NOT at American and United where upon stepping aboard their brand new 737s only to discover nary a screen ANYWHERE – drop down or seatback – except the screen shown in the photo above which is near the front left door where one boards the plane…

    Yep, when one climbs aboard American and United’s brand spanking new 737s nowadays, apart from the “new plane smell”, it’s as if they’ve climbed aboard a circa 1970, “vintage” flying time machine…NO MOVIE SCREENS…NO BULGING, HANGING CATHODE RAY “BOOB TUBE” MINI TVs…NO DROP DOWN SCREENS…AND OF COURSE, NO SEATBACK VIDEO MONITORS…

    …Just the bare backs of pleather covered, hard as cement blocks seats in the row in front of them that resemble the vintage flying experience dating back to before TWA became the first airline (IIRC) to introduce the then innovative concept of inflight Hollywood movies on screens mounted on the partitions of cabins!!!

    Yeah, back in the day when airlines and most companies “tried harder” to earn business by competing to see who could be best, instead of now in our bat-guano crazy, upside down world of today, when airlines define competition by seeing which one can race to the bottom to be the worst and get away with it, it probably seems hard for many to believe airlines actually viewed something as quaint as offering one movie, presented on a screen some passengers practically needed high powered binoculurs, or something else called “Opera Glasses”, to see from the back of the cabin…

    ..but tis true, once upon a time, our airlines actually thought competition for flyers dollars and bums in seats required attempting to be better…instead of worse…

    Imagine that!!!

    Anyhow, for those younger than say, maybe 45, and certainly younger than 40, yearning to “experience” vintage flying as it was in…say…circa 1970…aboard airplanes where there was nothing to look at, except the (much further ahead) bare back seat covered (of 35-36” pitched coach) rows, out the window, a book, magazine, a catalog filled with crazy gag gifts and other exotic products mostly never seen anywhere in real life, or do, except a crossword puzzle, or solitaire with a deck of freely offered by the airlines, cards, here’s your chance to literally step aboard the closest thing to a real, live time machine you’ll likely ever get!!!

    Whooo-hooo…1970 just called Dougie P and Oscar M at American and United and left a voicemail telling both of them it wants its boring, sucky, stripped down, “low rent” cheap as crap DIY BYO PED streaming (sucky, lame, third rate) IFE,1960s cabin designed, crappy 737s back…

    …of course, 1970 informs in the message it left, **MINUS** the horrible, hard as cement blocks slimeline…er SLIMline…(sorry, not sorry…) super sucky seats, packed into teeny-tiny no legroom rows, or those ridiculously puny, Fivel the Mouse can barely fit to poop in here microbathrooms these allegedly new, but anything but “better” for passengers, allegedly modern when they’re really not, 737s are…

    Yeah, leave it to our amazingly innovative airlines to not just bring back a circa 1970 vintage flying “experience” aboard stripped down 737s devoid of any contemporary creature comforts or anything remotely resembling modern day passenger pleasing aspects of flying like seatback IFE just like the 737s were when they first took to the skies with Lufthansa in 1967…

    And incredibly, they actually have the unmitigated gall to say this is “better” all with straight faces…

    Yeah, right.

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