Reported by Chris Sloan for Business Insider; American Airlines became the first US airline to fly the Boeing 737 Max jet on 29th December, after 21 months grounding. He was onboard the first commercial flight from Miami to New York LaGuardia.

Here’s what it was like onboard the first Boeing 737 Max passenger flight.

All Photos on this report are from Chris Sloan
When we were boarding, the gate agent announced we were flying the 737 MAX aircraft; announcing the aircraft type is a new policy for AA being rolled out, presumably not to single out the MAX.
Our Captain Sean Roskey, a 29 year veteran thanked his American and Boeing colleagues for their hard work in bringing the MAX back to service adding “I feel so confident about the plane that I bought my mother along for the trip”.
 
He was also celebrating his 29th wedding anniversary so his wife, Ann was aboard too.
 
Adding to the family affair, First Officer Moraima Maldonado, a Miami-based 737 First Officer had her mom aboard too. The cabin erupted into applause with these sentimental announcements
My seatmate, Mr. Eduardo Fernandes who flies every week, said “It’s been tested and looked at now more than any other plane in history, so I feel completely safe”.
As to be expected, others I spoke to had no idea what aircraft they were flying, nor did they care. “As long as it gets me there safely” one passenger said.
As we pushed back, six minutes early, the ground crew stopped to take selfies and to wave us off. We taxied quickly to the runway. I could sense no real anticipation or celebration that normally accompanies special flights.
The Boeing 737 MAX’s quiet GE Leap engine take-off noise signature was interrupted by a short, burst of applause; it was more like a “golf clap”.
Reporter Chris Sloan
The flight itself was very smooth and uneventful, with only minor bumps into a gusty LaGuardia on the descent. All stakeholders can hope MAX’s re-entry into service mirrors this first flight.

Brett Snyder of the Cranky Flier says all eyes will remain on the MAX.

“The media will make front page news of even the smallest incident, like a medical diversion, and plaster the headlines about it being a MAX across the front page.  But as the airplane quietly performs well flight after flight, the concerns will melt away and people will forget about this.  It just takes time.”

Brett Snyder, Cranky Flier

Upgrading the MAX Fleet

American Airlines, have been working at warp speed to safely return the MAX to safety. The airline’s Tech Ops team in Tulsa, Oklahoma has put more than 64,000 hours of work into maintaining and upgrading the MAX fleet, over the past 20 months. 

“We’re not going to build trust just sitting on the ground.”

American Airlines Operations Chief

Every aircraft completes a required Operational Readiness Flight (ORF) to ensure it’s ready for passenger service. The successful completion of the readiness flight allows aircraft to begin flying revenue service. Beyond the Operation Readiness Flight, there are no federally mandated number of flights or flight hours required prior to revenue service

As of the end of this year, American Airlines will have re-activated all 24 of their delivered MAXs; they will also have taken delivery of 10 more, according to American President Robert Isom who was also onboard the flight. 1,400 of the company’s 2,700 737 pilots have been retrained in the simulators to fly the MAX.

For their first full month of MAX operations in January 2021, American has filed 588 flights utilising the aircraft. It is expected that the return to normal service will be gradual, made even more so due to the COVID passenger downturn.

“No Pressure” to Fly on the MAX

Considering the large distrust for the MAX, even after such an overhaul, American has opted to notify all passengers that they will be specifically flying on the aircraft.

In addition to the elimination of change fees for most customers, announced in August 2020, in the immediate term, American will also provide additional flexibility for those who would rather fly on something else. This also applies if a customers’ flights are shifted to a MAX in the event of a cancellation. Customers can:

  • Rebook on the next available flight in the same cabin — free of charge
  • Cancel their trip and receive travel credits redeemable with American Airlines
  • Change their itinerary within a 300-mile radius at no extra charge, if there is no alternative American Airlines flight available to get them to their destination

Photos and details by Chris Sloan for Business Insider