United Airlines is just weeks away from its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 flights, and delivery of the first plane occurred on the weekend. United has MAX 8 flights scheduled in its timetables from mid-July and 40 MAX 8s on order. The Chicago-based airline aims to have 13 MAX 8s flying by the end of the year.
Boeing delivers United’s first MAX 8 on Sunday
The first of those MAX 8s winged its way east on the weekend to United’s Newark hub. On Sunday, June 27, UA2708, operated by a MAX 8 registered as N27251 departed Seattle’s Boeing Field (BFI). United’s first MAX 8 touched down at New York’s Newark Airport (EWR) around 17:30 (local time).
Daily MAX 8 flights to Las Vegas from mid-July
United’s MAX 8s will be based at Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The plane will initially fly to Newark (EWR) and Las Vegas (LAS) Airports. Beginning Thursday, July 15, United will swap a MAX 9 for a MAX 8 on the daily UA789 service between Houston and Las Vegas. UA789 departs IAH 11:58 (local time) and arrives in Las Vegas at 12:59 (local time). The return service, UA2106, pushes back from Las Vegas at 13:56 (local time) and lands back in Houston at 18:57 (local time).
United Airlines’ MAX 8s are slightly smaller than the MAX 9s. At 39.52-meters, United’s MAX 8 will carry 166 passengers, with 16 passengers in the first class cabin and 150 passengers in the main economy cabin (including 54 passengers in economy plus seats). In contrast, United’s 42.16-meter MAX 9 planes fly 179 passengers, with 20 passengers in the first class cabin and 159 passengers in the main economy cabin (including 42 passengers in economy plus seats).
Will passengers notice much difference? Most likely, they will. The first class cabin on the MAX 8 is smaller than on the MAX 9. The main economy cabin has also shrunk on the MAX 8. But the likely big hit for MAX passengers will be the seat-back TV screens, power outlets, big overhead bins, and inflight WiFi. While MAX 9 passengers already enjoy many cabin improvements, the MAX 8 will be a significant upgrade for passengers who usually fly flights operated by 737-800 or 737-900 planes.
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Newark host the inaugural United MAX 8 flight
Las Vegas won’t host United’s inaugural MAX 8 paying passenger flight. The kudos will go to a morning flight between Houston and Newark. On July 15, UA408 will push back from IAH at 07:00 (local time) for the three and a half hour flight across to Newark. That flight is presently operated by Boeing 737-900 aircraft. United will offer two return MAX 8 flights a day between Houston and Newark. Effective July 15, the second daily MAX 8 departure from Houston is UA2327, the 16:20 (local time) departure.
In the opposite direction, EWR – IAH, the two daily departures are UA1755, pushing back from Newark at 07:55 (local time) and UA2264, departing EWR at 12:45 (local time).
United has been unusually coy about the debut of its MAX 8 planes. A seat map briefly went up on their website earlier this month before been removed. But the airline did confirm the July 15 start date, and data in their online schedules backs this.
The relative silence from United’s Chicago HQ may have something to do with a highly anticipated announcement on Tuesday. United is expected to formally confirm a further MAX 8 order. United is expected to buy up to 200 planes, including 100 MAX 8s.
The smooth, low-profile introduction of the MAX 8 into United’s fleet also reflects the swift public acceptance of the MAXs back into North America’s skies. It is just over six months since the MAXs resumed flying amid some public hesitation. Now the aircraft barely turns an eye.