Spending Time With MAXjet at the LAX Inaugural

LAX - Los Angeles, MAXjet

Yesterday was just one of those days when it’s great to be an airline dork. There’s nothing I like more than heading to the airport for an event that doesn’t involve the stress of actually going anywhere, and yesterday MAXjet’s launch of service from LAX to London/Stansted gave me that opportunity. Yes, I know. I have issues.

02 tbitlineupWhen I arrived, the plan was to start with a press conference/schmooze fest in the Bradley Terminal’s special events room. The room is located on the south side of the fifth floor, conveniently placed as far away as humanly possible from the rest of civilization. It didn’t help that not a soul who worked in the airport had any clue where the place was, but I was still able to find it.

When I walked in, they were handing out gift bags with a bunch of goodies including . . . a stuffed dog? Yes, apparently they’re now revealing how the airline was named. Believe it or not, it was named after Max, one of the founders’ dogs. (I’m not kidding.) So now he’s the airline’s mascot.

After digging through the bag, the press conference still hadn’t started, so I took a look around. I see why this room is located where it is, because it had a great view of MAXjet’s 767 at the close-in gate 106. I have no doubt that gate was chosen for a reason today. I do have to say that the airline’s bluish/purplish livery looks very sharp. The colors are quite distinctive, and as you can see with my poor picture taking skills at left, that’s true even when next to some of the most well known liveries in the world.

03 stockbridgespeechSoon, it was time for the press conference, which turned out to be more of an informal Q&A with a couple of remarks up front by Bill Stockbridge, CEO of MAXjet, and his killer moustache. He gave the speech you’d expect about how MAXjet is all about value and the longer the flight, the more value they provide. You know the deal. But the questions from the peanut gallery let to a couple of interesting tidbits.

Stockbridge said the airline puts its fifth 767 into service on September 25. At first, it will just be a system spare aircraft, but in the fourth quarter of this year or first quarter of next, they will add a sun destination in Florida. I’ve heard rumors in various places about Miami, but Orlando could be in the running as well, I’d think.

As for the onboard product, once he got past the awkward explanation about the food onboard (“It’s good food, not great food”), he mentioned that they were upgrading the inflight entertainment onboard with better noise canceling headsets, etc.

A random fact that surprised me is that apparently 25% of MAXjet’s traffic connects beyond London/Stansted. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise considering all the European LCCs with large operations there, but I still didn’t expect it to be that high. Stockbridge then went on to say that he expects open skies to benefit them greatly because they’ll be able to fly beyond London now. The example he gave was having a flight go LAX – London – Dubai and being able to carry local passengers between London and Dubai. I’m not sure whether or not that route is actually on his radar, but it would seem to be a very strong choice for an all business class airline.

Outside of the press conference, I had the chance to ask how the LAX flight was doing so far. He said they were pleased with advance bookings and that it was building better than any other route had so far. On today’s inaugural, there were 90 people booked in the 102 seats and most of those were paid.

06 myseatOnce we were done upstairs, the fun began. They took some of us down to the gate which was pleasantly uncrowded, a big change from the norm at the Bradley Terminal. It’s not that the plane wasn’t full, it’s just that 90 people in a gate area that usually sees 400 seat 747s is a nice change of pace.

It was a bit hectic at the gate with champagne and cake being served and the ribbon being set up for cutting. This gave me a chance to sneak onboard the plane and check out the seats. I wasn’t able to take the trip myself this time, but I was very excited to be able to at least see the cabin. When you walk onboard, there’s a nice roomy feel even though it has the old style overhead bins which generally make the cabin feel more closed-in. The seats are nice leather and, as you can see, there were pillows and blankets placed on each one.

07 brettinseatThough they were busy preparing for departure, I was able to sit down and test out the seat. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the degree of recline and the overall comfort of the seat. These may be old generation business class, but with the extra legroom they’ve added, you’re able to recline up to 170 degrees. It was really comfortable for the minute I sat there, and I’ve heard others say that it’s comfortable when you’re there for several hours as well. It took me a minute to figure out how to work the seat since it’s all manual. That’s a bit awkward, but as I was told, having electronic seats costs more, they break more often, and they don’t add enough value to make it worthwhile. I’d have to agree; I’m not willing to pay more just to have electronic seat control.

13 jlounge2They were clearly trying to prep the cabin so I didn’t want to take too much time. I headed back into the terminal and Nancy Castles, LAX PR person, offered to take some of us to see the new business class lounge for unaligned airlines (ones not in Star, Skyteam, or oneworld) which just opened in the last couple of weeks. It was a decently sized space and it seemed fine. Nothing special like the Virgin Clubhouse, but I hardly would have expected that anyway.

Back down at the gate, it was time to button up and Nancy offered to take me down on the ramp for the water cannon salute. Without hesitation, I jumped at the chance. We drove out to the end of the alleyway and waited while planes taxied all around us. 27 mytaxi1Fantastic. When the plane finally headed our way, I was able to snap a couple shots head-on while the aircraft passed through the water arches. As you can see once again, my photo skills are lacking, but it was an amazing vantage point.

Finally, it was time to head home. As I said, it was a great day to be an airline dork. Click here to see a full gallery of the day’s events including a shot of the Saudi King’s Kingdom Holdings’ (thanks for the update) 747 taxiing by.

Enjoy the long weekend and I’ll be back with you on Tuesday.

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3 comments on “Spending Time With MAXjet at the LAX Inaugural

  1. Good report! Just wanted to note that that 747 you shot is not the Saudi king’s plane, but instead a Saudi private company’s aircraft. The Saudi royal flight has a fleet of jets in Saudi Arabia Airlines colors.

  2. i cant believe it!!! i was at the airport yesterday taking pictures of planes, and heard from someone that maxjet had just landed. they were saying terminal 5 however, and when i didnt see the plane, i simply ignored him. this will teach me to look around harder next time.

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