Finally, a Ride on a MAX (Trip Report)

American, Southwest, Trip Reports

They say third time’s a charm, right? I was supposed to fly on my first MAX on Southwest years ago, long before the grounding, but it was swapped out to a 737-800 at the last minute. Then last October I was booked to fly back to LAX from Phoenix specifically because it was on a Southwest MAX, but the Southwest meltdown led to a swap so I switched flights. This time, I was heading back to Phoenix, and I finally pulled it off. That combined with a clean and on-time American Eagle/SkyWest CRJ-700 home made for an easy day trip.

This was my annual trip to Phoenix to watch a spring training game with some old America West colleagues. This didn’t happen the last two years, so I was excited to get back to it. Considering this marks 20 years since I left America West, it says a great deal about how much I liked and respected the people I worked with there. Catching up with them at a ballpark is a highlight every year.

I don’t like to cut it too close to game time, because there’s always tailgating before, so I flew out first thing in the morning. American had nothing until later, so Southwest it was. I bought a ticket on the first flight out for a mere $58.09, and yes it was scheduled on a MAX. For the return, American had the right timing with a 5:20pm departure so I snagged that for $88.60.

I checked in at the 24 hour mark on my flight out and got A51. I figured that meant the plane was empty, because I wasn’t buying EarlyBird and rarely get better than low Bs, but I was wrong. We must just be cheap in Long Beach and won’t spring for that fancy boarding plan.

The morning of the flight I woke up to find a thick fog blanketing the area. I left home a bit more than an hour before departure, parked on the street outside the airport, and headed in. I decided to walk through the historic terminal building since it will soon close and become a rental car center. The new ticketing area will open on May 4, and wow, it can’t happen soon enough. Southwest’s presence at the airport has resulted in a crushing crowd trying to check bags. It is just not adequately-sized for its purpose anymore.

The security line was long. And by that, I mean it took me 5 minutes to get through. On the other side, I strolled over to gate 2 and scratched my head.

The monitor said Oakland and the airplane out the window was Arizona One, not a MAX. I had a sense of dread that I was getting swapped, but nay. The Oakland flight had finished boarding and was on Arizona One. Our airplane was parked by gate 3, and oh yes, it was a MAX that had come in from Honolulu the night before.

Not a minute after I walked up to the gate, they told the A group to line up, so I joined the herd and hopped on board.

Southwest 570
March 25, 2022

Depart Long Beach
➤ Scheduled: 730a, Actual: 743a
➤ From: Gate 2 on Runway 30

Arrive Phoenix
➤ Scheduled: 850a, Actual: 857a
➤ At: Gate D6 on Runway 7R

➤ Type: Boeing 737-8 MAX
➤ Delivered: Nov 7, 2017
➤ Registered: N8715Q, msn 42570
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 4A
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 54m

The interior of the MAX was quite a wake up call. It had the mood lighting fired up in Southwest colors. I was happy to see a woman in the aisle in row 4 with an empty window, so I took it.

We were late pushing back, and I have no idea why. The flight attendants were chipper, but not annoyingly so. It’s a fine line in the early morning, and they never crossed it.

We found our way down to the end of the runway through the fog and powered up. The first thing I noticed… the engines are so quiet. This reminded me of my first time on a neo. It was also the opposite of my last time flying a 737-300.

Video of departure from LGB

We were in the muck only for about twenty seconds before we were above the deck, turning south before heading east.

I was really tired, so I briefly dozed to the point that I missed the drink service entirely. At least I got a snack mix bag. The ride itself was smooth. There were some high clouds that blocked the view, but it cleared once we got past the Colorado River and into Arizona.

The pilots came on and said there were reports of some bumps on the way into Phoenix, so they turned on the seatbelt sign. I don’t know what air those people were flying through, but our descent was smooth as silk.

I saluted my team as we passed Chase Field on our landing from the west. We had a quick taxi to the gate which was on the D concourse so I could snap one of my favorite photos. It’s just such a great view.

The day was so good. We went to breakfast, I picked up some beers, and we hung out for a couple hours until we slowly wandered in for the game itself. Who won? Not that it matters, but the A’s beat the Brewers. Spring training is never about the score.

The game wrapped up a little after 4, so I hopped into my friend’s car and we drove back to the airport. I was in the door about an hour before departure, had a very short line at security, and was lucky to get a close-in parking spot at gate B3. I had a little time to kill, so I walked around. I noticed the newer screens showing flight information. I’m not sure these are any better, especially since they have less information on each screen.

After having some nostalgic flashbacks to my old America West days as I always do there, I came back to board.

American Eagle (SkyWest) 3046
March 25, 2022

Depart Phoenix
➤ Scheduled: 520p, Actual: 520p
➤ From: Gate B3 on Runway 25R

Arrive Long Beach
➤ Scheduled: 647p, Actual: 629p
➤ At: Gate 5 on Runway 30

➤ Type: Mitsubishi CRJ-701ER
➤ Delivered: Sep 10, 2003
➤ Registered: N720EV, msn 10115
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 10A
➤ Load: ~90% Full
➤ Flight Time: 56m

It’s so nice to see a clean and modern looking regional aircraft in American’s colors. I like having SkyWest in town a lot more than Mesa. The interior looked good and this flight was already fairly full when I stepped onboard.

Someone was in the aisle when I got there. He got up to let me in, I took my seat, and I realized how tired I was. Also, drunk. But mostly tired. As boarding finished up, my seatmate got up and I never saw him again. I think he moved back to one of the few other empty seats, but I didn’t really care where he went. I was just happy that he did.

We had a short taxi over to the south runways and took off to the west. Morning arrivals and afternoon departures are the best in Phoenix if you’re coming from/heading to the west. The runways nearly always line up in your favor.

Once at altitude, the flight attendants came through with drinks and snacks. I had water and asked for two Biscoff, because if I don’t get one for each kid, I better not get any. She had no problem with that.

The high clouds were still hanging around, so we spent a fair bit of time in them. The flight attendants were working hard, coming up and down the aisles often. One of them was wearing a jacket, and I was confused because it didn’t seem very cold onboard. I asked her if she was freezing, and she said something like “yeah, it’s so cold up front, but it’s not here. It makes me look crazy, I know.” I appreciated the self-awareness.

We had a nice descent through clearing skies that had us fly right over Orange County airport just as a Southwest aircraft was taking off (just in front of the wing in the photo above). Then we hung a right and followed the coast to land.

I was surprised to land nearly 20 minutes early on such a short flight, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain. By this point, I had sobered up, and the walk back to the car down the road felt good in the cool air.

As always, it was a great day, and the flights — like everything else — went like clockwork.

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30 comments on “Finally, a Ride on a MAX (Trip Report)

  1. “I left home a bit more than an hour before departure…”

    Asking for troubles – glad it worked out, this time!

    1. Hey – Normally I leave home right at an hour before departure. I usually end up sitting around anyway, but since I was walking in from the street, I left a bit earlier this time. It is not a risk in Long Beach.

  2. You never have to arrive that early for an LGB flight. Its just a great passenger experience.

    I picked up my wife from LGB last night, and have a flight out of there on Saturday. I love the existing terminal building and its too bad its outlived its usefulness. I just looked and its days are numbered — the new building goes live May 4. I hope they keep the option of bypassing and just going straight to the security building. Its a great relaxing So Cal feel to spend so much time physically outdoors in an airport setting.

  3. I haven’t been to a game at Ho-Ho-Kam Park in years. The first years I went there (to the iteration prior to the current facility), there were no houses beyond the outfield walls. I don’t go to many spring training games anymore because they’re usually crowded and baseball has become a year-round activity, since the Diamondbacks, the Arizona State Sun Devils, and the Arizona Fall League all call the Valley home.

    It looks like you left America West just before all the fireworks (i.e., mergers) started.

    Just curious, can SkyWest’s CRJ-700s qualify to use Long Beach’s commuter slots? I believe I read that American picked up another “regular” slot at Long Beach, too. In any event, it looks like the airport is thriving, and that Southwest is a much better fit there than JetBlue was.

    Since Frontier moved out of LAX entirely, I’m wondering if it might consider serving Long Beach as an alternative, or if the newly merged carrier will try to serve the airport. After all, Bill Franke will be the chairman of the combined carrier, and Frontier’s shareholders will control 51.5% of the company. I’m probably overthinking all of this a bit, as Spirit appears to have a fairly decent presence at LAX.

    1. Ghost – Yes, the CR7 can fit in the commuter slots, but American doesn’t want to do that. It would rather squat on mainline slots.

      1. Thanks. I was thinking in terms of possible expanded service. America West and its successors have served Long Beach for at least three decades. “Squatting” on mainline slots gives the airline flexibility to use CRJ-900s, E-175s, or even larger mainline aircraft if it wants to in the future. If American is inclined to grow its presence at Long Beach, it could use commuter slots mainly to fly to Phoenix (since I understand they’re readily available) and use its mainline slots to fly to places like DFW, Chicago, or Austin. Again. I’m probably overthinking this.

        1. AA did fly DFW-LGB for a while there, starting in April 2021. It ended in March of this year. It looks like it was on a mix of E-175 and CRJ-900 (towards the end). I don’t know if the E-175 counts as a commuter slot or a mainline slot. I don’t have any real data, but anecdotally I don’t think it did very well from a yield perspective (the curse of LGB). I doubt it comes back (it’s not currently scheduled to), a clear exception to the “AA can make money on any flight to DFW” principle, which usually holds fairly true.

          1. I understand CRJ-900s and E-175s are considered mainline. I’m pretty sure the CRJ-700 is the largest aircraft that fits the definition of a “commuter” aircraft at Long Beach. I also understand that the E-170, that America is acquiring from both Republic (via Delta Connection) and BA CitiFlyer, is too heavy to fit under the airport’s restrictions. American’s DFW service (and America West’s relatively long history at Long Beach) is what made me wonder about (or overthink) the airline’s possible expansion plans.

            1. The reason I asked Cranky is because of the weight restrictions regarding the CRJ-700. I understand that’s why the E-170 falls outside the definition of a “commuter aircraft” at LGB. There’s probably more to it, but that’s what I understand.

            2. I believe it’s not just the weight, but the number of seats as well. SNA and I think LGB have a 70 seat max for the comuter slots. Wish both airports would bump the comuter seat count to 76 and the weight to the 175-E1 weight. It would open up several 100 thousand comuter seats at SNA

        2. Ghost – American doesn’t have much interest in LGB. It tried DFW and failed, pulling the route very quickly after it started. There really isn’t anywhere else to go. I think all else being equal, they’d rather just keep an extra slot away from Southwest.

  4. I flew American at PHX a couple of weeks ago and I HATE the new departure info. screens! That business of sliding leftward after a few seconds and then having to wait until your city/flight shows up again. (Don’t blink your eyes or you’ll miss it and have to wait longer.)

  5. Cranky,
    I have been noticing that the Envoy FA’s seem friendlier than the newer FA’s on AA mainline flights. Is it my old brain or have you also noticed this?

  6. Mr. Snyder….I’ve read elsewhere that the Southwest MAX8 also has more leg room than their other aircraft. Did you notice that? And how would you feel about taking a MAX on the much longer flight to Hawaii? Would the reduced noise and extra legroom be a selling point to you on that long flight?

    1. I flew round-trip PHX-HNL on the MAX8. I thought the comfort was fine considering. Still wish Southwest would decide to set up in-seat power on their fleet though!

    2. Miss – I don’t think the legroom is any different than the -800s, but they all have good legroom. No complaints from me. I wouldn’t have a problem flying to Hawai’i on it at all, especially with the lower noise levels.

      1. Thanks for your input. Given the news of the day, when Spirit and Frontier announced their agreement, I asked you if you thought this would be a one-off deal or trigger another round of industry consolidation. You replied you thought it was a one-off deal within the ULCC space, a position widely agreed upon within the industry. Question: What do you make of JetBlue’s $3.6 billion all cash offer for Spirit? Is this a legitimate play by JetBlue? Or is JetBlue raising the ante on Indigo Partners? JetBlue made Alaska pay more for Virgin America than they wanted to pay. Is that the game plan this time as well or is JetBlue really after Spirit?

        1. This is not something to discuss in the comments. I have tweeted a couple thoughts, but I will have a post on this on Thursday.

            1. Waiting an extra day has its advantages. Our responses should be a bit more nuanced. LOL! Maybe?

      2. Hbeach & CF – thanks for your comments re: flying the Max to Hawaii. I have a trip scheduled at the end of April on the Max to Hawaii (on Southwest), so very timely. I am really looking forward to my first flights on the Max!

  7. Wow, just read about B6’s MASSIVE offer to buy Spirit! There goes Cranky’s evening! Can’t wait to read his take on it

  8. I flew my first MAXes in Hawaii in February, also on WN. What was remarkable was how unremarkable the experience was. I’m sure 99% of passengers would never notice if they didn’t pick up the safety card. The only thing that caught my attention was that my first flight was so empty that the crew started moving pax around for weight and balance. But after a couple minutes, they lost interest in further herding the pax. Given that it was a MAX, and given the history with that plane, I would have preferred if they had completed the safety protocol.

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