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United Airlines Continues To Remain Secretive On Boeing 737 MAX 8



United Airlines is one of the quietest customers for the Boeing 737 MAX 8. The airline, which already flies the MAX 9 and is a confirmed MAX 10 customer, has yet to take its first MAX 8 or even acknowledge its final tally of MAX 8 aircraft when deliveries are complete. A seat map for the MAX 8 appeared on the airline’s website, though it appears it has been taken down now. Nevertheless, the MAX 8 is slated to enter service with United in July.

United 737 mAX Getty
United Airlines, which flies the Boeing 737 MAX 9 already, is now gearing up to take its first MAX 8. Photo: Getty Images

United and the 737 MAX

United Airlines has been a large customer for the 737 MAX. According to data from ch-aviation, United Airlines has 30 Boeing 737 MAX 9s in its fleet and is awaiting delivery of the following numbers of MAX aircraft:

  • 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8
  • 49 Boeing 737 MAX 9
  • 92 Boeing 737 MAX 10

United Airlines did not confirm its final number of Boeing 737 MAX orders. However, it did confirm to Simple Flying that its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft was loaded in the schedule for July.

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What to expect on the MAX 8

Looking at United’s booking engine, showing 737 MAX 8 flights on select routes (including from Newark (EWR) to Houston (IAH)), the seat map is already on display:

United MAX 8
United’s MAX 8 seat map showing up on its booking engine. Screenshot: United

The MAX 8 so far appears to be sharing the same footprint as its Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which seat 16 passengers in recliner-style first class and 150 in economy.

Other than that, United has been pretty tight-lipped about what to expect onboard. Amenities that are mostly standard across United’s newest aircraft, such as WiFi and power outlets, will likely be on the MAX 8s. However, there may be another amenity waiting for passengers.

Eagle-eyed spotters on Twitter noticed that United had posted a seat map for the MAX 8 on its website. That map, which has been taken down since then, showed that the aircraft was expected to have “seatback on-demand and personal device entertainment.”

United has recently been musing about bringing back seatback screens to its aircraft. Putting them on the MAX 8 would certainly align with that strategy, though it remains unconfirmed.

Part of United’s future

The Boeing 737 MAX 8, MAX 9, and MAX 10 are part of United’s strategy to strengthen its domestic network. While United has one of the most enviable international networks, it lags against its peers regarding its network and overall domestic gauge.

United Getty
United Airlines is betting big on the MAX. Photo: Getty Images

Looking ahead, United Airlines is big on investing in the passenger experience and its product. It is moving forward with its Polaris retrofits on its widebody aircraft, and CEO Scott Kirby stated the following just last week at the Annual Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference:

“We got more exciting announcements coming on the product and investing in the product and we’re going to save $2 billion from structural expense. Not a single penny of that is going to come from customer product-facing initiatives. And in fact, we’re going to spend more on those things.”

While more details are expected to come out on the MAX 8 in the coming weeks, the signs certainly point toward the aircraft offering an improved customer experience than some of United’s other aircraft flying domestically.

Are you looking forward to flying on a United 737 MAX 8? Let us know in the comments!

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UAE extends suspension of flights from India



The second wave of COVID-19 in India broke all the records, and the country reported record high cases each day, and although now the graph is in a downward trend, there seems to be no respite for international travelers from India. In the latest development, UAE has further extended its ban on flights from India until 6 July 2021.

The suspension of flights between India-UAE was announced on 24 April 2021, and ever since then, the ban has been extended as the situation kept getting worse in India. Most countries suspended the ban on flights from India as a new variant of the virus was detected in the country. The travel ban issued by UAE has exemptions for UAE nationals, diplomats, and UAE Golden Visa holders.

Emirates and Etihad Airways had made announcements on 30th May 2021 regarding the suspension of flights between India-UAE. Air India Express announced this suspension in their tweet saying, “General Authority of Civil Aviation, UAE, has suspended all inbound passenger movement from India (excluding UAE nationals) till 6th July 2021. Passengers who booked to fly with us during this period can reschedule their tickets for travel at a future date.”

This extension of the ban has not only affected Indians who want to fly to the UAE but also hundreds of UAE health workers who have been stuck in India. Indian Ambassador to UAE, Pavan Kapoor, has told that this issue has been raised with UAE authorities and will soon find a solution to assist them.

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Swoop Targets Growth With Fall Return For International Routes



Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier Swoop has high hopes for international travel this fall as it releases its winter schedule. The airline shared today that the expanded schedule will see the resumption of services to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Swoop Hamilton 737
Swoop emphasizes that it is the first Canadian carrier to fully reintroduce all its aircraft. Photo: Swoop

Time for a change

United States and Canada-based airline advocacy groups have been putting pressure on authorities to open the border between the countries. Travel has been heavily restricted between the two neighbors since the beginning of the pandemic, rocking aviation activity for over a year, and organizations are thinking enough is enough.

There have been glimmers of hope in recent weeks. For instance, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hadju spoke this week of a phased reopening plan that could begin early next month. Also, Global News reports today that US congressman and co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus Brian Higgins shared that US president Joe Biden wants the border open.

With these prospects, Canadian airlines are preparing to ramp up services. Swoop highlights that daily bookings have been matching pre-pandemic figures. Thus, along with the scale-up of flights, the carrier is going ahead with its fleet growth plans and introducing its 10th Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft before 2022 hits.

Swoop 737 Interior
Amid the restrictions, flights across the Canada-United States border have been for essential travel only. Photo: Swoop

Booking rebounds

Swoop president Charles Duncan spoke about activity heading into the second half of the year. With demand increasing, his firm is highlighting its offerings that run in line with the release of new schedules. The airline will be flying internationally from Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Abbotsford.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for travel this summer, most especially in provinces where vaccination and re-opening plans are on track and clearly outlined. With the release of our winter schedule, those who are planning further ahead or dreaming of a vacation abroad can find our always affordable flights and Getaway packages available for booking through April 2022,” Duncan shared in a statement.

“Consumer confidence is coming back, and the message is clear, Canadians are ready to start planning that long overdue trip. When travellers are ready, we look forward to safely welcoming them back onboard our aircraft.”

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Balancing the network

Swoop is proud to announce that it will be flying to vacation hotspots such as Las Vegas, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Montego Bay. Duncan previously told Simple Flying that capacity had been down by 90% earlier this year due to the tough conditions. In contrast, US carriers were generally down between 20-30%. As a result of the restrictions, there was a refined focus on domestic routes, with moves such as new operations to Victoria and the return and addition of new routes to Kelowna.

Swoop 737 Jet
Flights on the scheduled winter service with the Boeing 737 aircraft will start from CA$40 one way. Photo: Swoop

Flair won’t be the only ultra-low-cost carrier keeping an eye on border reopening progress this summer. Fellow Canadian outfit Flair Airlines, which has also been largely concentrating on domestic services in recent months, would also be keen on returning international flights as it sends its new 737 MAX aircraft to the skies.

Altogether, Swoop will be glad that there is optimism across the network again. The airline will be glad to deploy more 737s, which it dubs the perfect aircraft for its routes.

What are your thoughts about Swoop’s ambitions for the end of the year? Are you looking to hit the skies with the airline soon? Let us know what you think of the carrier and its prospects in the comment section.

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European airlines to push back against tougher climate regulations



InfluenceMap, a British research centre that monitors corporate lobbying around climate change has revealed that ten European airlines have lobbied for a delay to new proposals in relation to aviation carbon emissions. Despite receiving financial aid assistance, according to InfluenceMap, four of the biggest carriers in Europe, Air France-KLM, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Ryanair have all lobbied against new environmental proposals for the aviation sector.

The European Commission is set to unveil its new green legislation next month, which aims to cut the European Union’s carbon emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 when compared with carbon emissions levels in 1990. Ben Youriev, the report’s author, says the unity of opposition across the industry is “surprising” compared to most other industries, such as energy, where there is usually a more mixed picture.

Earlier this year, the flag carrier of Germany, Lufthansa wrote to the EU vice-commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans complaining that these new climate rules and regulations would create an “unlevel playing field” in addition to highlighting concerns about a new requirement for carrier’s to use a certain amount of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs).

The response from IATA was not slow in coming, labelling the report “a gross distortion of the aviation industry’s longstanding and genuine sustainability efforts.” The report stands in stark contrast to the commitment shown last year by European airlines to achieve zero emissions by 2050, either through the use of more efficient aircraft, sustainable fuels, or new technologies such as hybrid electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft.

These new European climate rules could put European airlines at a distinct disadvantage compared to their international rivals. IATA said the industry’s decarbonization plan should be a global initiative rather than a regional one. While the new European climate rules may be welcoming news for some, if implemented European airlines could struggle to adapt to these new regulations, as they try to recover from the lasting effects COVID-19 has had on air travel across Europe.

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Spirit Airlines Just Made The Best Argument For Lifting LaGuardia’s Perimeter Rule



On Saturday, June 12th, Spirit Airlines made the best argument for lifting the perimeter rule at LaGuardia or at least relaxing it. The airline inaugurated services on the airport’s only transcontinental services, flying an Airbus A320neo nonstop from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Simple Flying got a chance to fly on the inaugural.

Spirit Airbus A320neo
Spirit Airlines has launched a new LGA-LAX nonstop route, and it is a testament to what service could be like if the LaGuardia perimeter rule were relaxed. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Spirit’s LaGuardia to Los Angeles flight

Spirit Airlines announced in March that it would launch LaGuardia’s only transcontinental route to Los Angeles starting on June 12th. Using an Airbus A320neo, this flight would run once a week on Saturdays.

Spirit Airlines is a relatively small player at LaGuardia, though it is trying to grow as much as possible at the airport. The airline’s operations are currently split across two terminals.

All flights to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) depart out of Terminal A. Every other flight out of LaGuardia, including to Los Angeles, departs out of Terminal C. LaGuardia flyers will know Terminal C is heavily utilized by Delta Air Lines.

The iconic “Welcome To New York” sign at LaGuardia. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

LaGuardia is governed by a perimeter rule. For nearly 40 years, the airport has been restricted to handle flights only within a 1,500-mile radius from the airport as a means to reduce congestion and push airlines toward New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is the flight to Denver, and the second is on Saturdays. On Saturdays, the perimeter rule is relaxed, and airlines can add leisure flying on a day where traffic is usually lower at the primarily business-centric airport.

The inaugural flight

Early in the morning on June 12th, I made my way to LaGuardia’s Terminal C to catch the 07:20 departure to Los Angeles. There is a lot of construction going on at LaGuardia, so plan some extra time in case you take a wrong turn, or you have unfamiliarity with the airport.

Terminal C is home to Delta Air Lines, WestJet, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit. Delta dominates. Spirit Airlines has a baggage drop-off and check-in counter located on the left-hand side of security when entering.

Spirit Big Ftont
I booked into a Big Front Seat on this flight. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

If you are flying this summer, plan to arrive at the airport early to get through security. Plenty of passengers on the flight to Los Angeles felt the bottleneck here. You can save on time through security by enrolling in CLEAR or TSA PreCheck for expedited security screening. I have both, so I was through security in minutes.

There was not much pomp and circumstance at the gate to celebrate the inaugural flight, though there was clearly a buzz among the employees.

Boarding started about 45 minutes before departure and was efficient. It seemed that much of the aircraft was going out empty (despite the seat map showing it as an almost full flight). Then, however, the plane started to fill up as passengers were held up with the long security line.

Spirit A320neo
The legroom was comparable to a domestic first class seat on other airlines. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

Onboard, Spirit Airlines outfits its Airbus A320neos with room for 182 passengers. The Airbus A320neo is the next-generation version of the popular Airbus A320 family, and Spirit Airlines is a major customer of this type. The carrier has even ramped up deliveries of the aircraft over the next few years.

I chose to book in Spirit’s Big Front Seat for the flight to Los Angeles, which was a great deal. I paid under $200 for the one-way flight with the upgrade. This is essentially a domestic first class style of hard product, though it does not have any other frills.

Our flight time across the country was just under five hours and 15 minutes. We departed roughly on time and landed in Los Angeles about 20 minutes ahead of schedule in what has to be one of the smoothest landings I have ever experienced.

Spirit LGA-LAX
The inaugural Spirit Airlines flight between LaGuardia and Los Angeles. Photo:

The flight is blocked to depart LaGuardia at 07:20 and arrive in Los Angeles at 10:10 (all times are local). The return flight departs LAX at 13:27 and arrives in LaGuardia at 21:52 (all times are local).

Given the length of this flight, Spirit’s flight attendants conduct multiple services down the aisle. Passengers will have to pay for food and beverages, though if you have Gold Status, you can get a complimentary inflight snack and nonalcoholic beverage.

What was really special was the flight attendants. In the last few weeks, as passengers have retaken to the skies, I have had some very excited and happy crew, glad to welcome people back onboard. The same was true on this flight, though the flight attendants were even more enthused about the airline’s new loyalty program and provided plenty of detailed information about it inflight.

Spirit Getty
The new Free Spirit loyalty program launched earlier this year. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit’s flight is an argument for lifting the rule

The adage “show not tell” rings true. While some airlines have pushed hard for lifting the perimeter rule at LaGuardia in the last decade, no airline has serviced the LGA-LAX route in nearly 15 years.

There are many reasons why airlines would not want to fly once a week on this route. First and foremost, a weeklong trip starting on Saturdays generally targets a leisure-oriented customer base. Still, the New York to Los Angeles market is also a heavy business travel market.

Seeking consistency, airlines tend to schedule their transcontinental operations out of either New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) over in New Jersey.

Spirit A320neo
Spirit Airlines has also shown itself willing to service transcontinental routes in other markets. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The problem with this route is that there is no low-cost competition on the route. While there are some deals to be had on this route, finding something comparable to what Spirit Airlines charges with the potential buy-up to the Big Front Seat is very difficult.

New York-JFK is far too expensive of an airport for Spirit Airlines to operate from. Plus, it has a reputation of being mostly an international and business-oriented airport, not the crowd that Spirit is necessarily going after.

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Meanwhile, Newark is not easily accessible for a large swath of New York City-area travelers. While it is considered an area airport and United Airlines has tried to push the airport hard as an option for New Yorkers, United’s return to JFK shows a significant market that is not willing to trek over to New Jersey to catch a transcontinental flight.

Spirit LAX
Spirit is the only ultra-low-cost carrier flying between New York and Los Angeles. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The other options are much further away from New York City and include Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip (ISP), Stewart International Airport (SWF), and Westchester County Airport (HPN). Unfortunately, none of these are very viable options for targeting New York City travelers.

While airlines battle out for premium customers on the route, Spirit Airlines can offer a low-fare alternative to fly between New York City and Los Angeles, which is unavailable otherwise. Save for avgeeks like myself, there is little overlap between the customers who fly JetBlue Mint, Delta One, United Polaris, or American’s Flagship First to Los Angeles and Spirit’s customers.

At the end of the day, willing to try a once-a-week flight, Spirit Airlines has shown what things could be like if the perimeter rule at LaGuardia were lifted in a manner that enabled for additional low-cost growth in the New York area. However, whether that rule will be lifted or relaxed remains to be seen and is not without opposition.

Would you fly Spirit between LaGuardia and Los Angeles? Do you think LaGuardia’s perimeter rule should be relaxed? Let us know in the comments!

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