American Will Fly Their Awful 737 MAX To Brazil

Filed Under: American

American has gotten quite a bit of attention for their Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which have been extremely unpopular with passengers.

American’s 737 MAX cabin

American’s 737 MAX cabin

While other airlines are taking delivery of new planes with comfortable cabins and personal televisions at every seat, American’s newest aircraft don’t feature seatback entertainment, and feature more seats and smaller bathrooms than any of their previous planes. Even the first class seats aren’t comfortable.

American has a total of 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on order, so we’ll see these on more and more routes over time. Right now American operates these planes on some transcon flights, which is more time than I’d want to spend on one of these planes.

Well, now American has revealed their longest 737 MAX 8 route yet. And I say “revealed” rather than “announced” because they’re not announcing this, for good reason (since it’s a negative development), but rather they’ve just quietly updated the schedule.

As of May 4, 2019, American will operate the Boeing 737 MAX 8 on their route between Miami and Brasilia. This route covers a distance of ~3,600 miles, and the flight is blocked at just under eight hours in each direction. This will be American’s longest 737 MAX route yet.

Up until now American has flown a Boeing 757-200 on the route. This plane features 16 fully flat seats in business class, so it’s significantly more comfortable than the 737.

American’s 757 business class

What’s equally pathetic is that American will continue to sell the forward cabin on the plane as business class, rather than selling it as premium economy (which is what they should do, since the 737 MAX 8 first class seat is identical to American’s premium economy seat).

American’s 737 MAX business class

Now, it’s worth noting that Brazilian airline GOL also flies the Boeing 737 MAX between Miami and Brazil, so American isn’t the first airline to do so. However, GOL is a low cost carrier, so in the surface that’s not what American should be competing with.

Now, to be fair to American:

  • Smaller planes are becoming more fuel efficient and longer range, so they’ll naturally operate longer routes
  • American is planning to phase out their 757s by 2020, and presumably that’s the largest plane they can economically fly between Miami and Brasilia (or else they’d fly a bigger plane there to begin with)
  • So when American retires their 757s, it seems they have no choice but to fly their 737 MAX there or cancel the route

The issue is just how horribly they’ve decided to configure these planes. If American’s intention is to use these 737s to operate international flights previously operated by 757s, then they should configure them more comfortably. Maybe they should even have a subfleet for the longer flights, with flat beds in business class.

But at a minimum, they sure as heck shouldn’t sell the forward cabin on these planes as “business class,” when they’re really using a premium economy seat.

(Tip of the hat to Passageiro De Primeira)

  1. GOL is only low cost on paper.
    There’s no LCC in Brazil. I mean, there’s LCC services, but not LCC prices.

  2. Eeek! And Brasilia is considered South America Region 2 in AAdvantage award chart 🙁 … which is priced the same for travel to GRU and GIG from USA.
    I do think it will be a miserable experience if that plane is full full. However, if one can score an entire economy row when the flight load is light, it wouldn’t be that bad.
    I agree though that they should sell those business class seats as premium economy (or perhaps sell them as heavily discounted business class seats.)
    As for the lack of inflight entertainment, I’m fine with that as nowadays I download my favorite TV shows and movies on my smartphone or iPad mini and just watch those (bringing my own headset).

  3. @Leeza1, you have a good point. When I was in Brazil a year ago, I recall it was a good use of my Delta Skymiles to redeem them on GOL domestic flights.

  4. Hahahaha this is a more lawful version of Guantanamo lah. What a joke. I surely am not going into one of those 737 bugs.

  5. @Callum I guess Lucky’s point is that they should be honest. They should not pretend these are actual business class seats and sell them at higher prices, when they should be sold at PE prices or award points accordingly.

  6. It’s the Brazilian market, which is utterly worthless these days anyway. AA has been using Miami and Latin America as their aircraft boneyard for years now. That market apparently doesn’t mind, or at least doesn’t complain.

  7. As I commute half the year between Brazil and the U.S. this is insanity. The 757 was bad enough on the Brasilia flight (which despite this was sometimes a good option for reward availability when GRU and GIG were booked). While TAM is no gem it’s leaps and bounds over this absurdity in Business. Unless you want quick point to point to Brasilia there is no reason to ever use this flight now. While it used to be a good flight to access domestic connections to Bahia without going all the way to S.P. at this point I would rather do that with the myriad of redemption possibilities on Avianca, TAM, Azul, and American 777’s. I have yet to see what GOL’s INTL. product will be but with Delta as a partner I think it will be more than what we see domestically.

    As far as the comment on LCC’s in Brazil: In fact they all run the same model domestically. Including TAM. (Ok, fine, LATAM, lol). There is no difference in service offerings between any of them other than aircraft types with Azul mostly operating E-190’s, GOL 737’s, TAM A320 series and Avianca A320 series. The seating and offerings are all essentially the same and are pretty much like U.S. domestic coach…(no FC). I would say the cost structures are all pretty much on par with each other. For INTL flights American and Delta offer the best product to the U.S. with Azul being as good but less convenient with VCP departures only to Florida. TAM and Avianca are average at best in Business.

    While on the subject, United’s GRU-IAD flight is a little hidden secret amongst us that travel back and forth. It’s a decent flight actually, business is often available last minute, you avoid Miami, and it’s only 55K with Aeroplan. As well it’s the perfect length for food, movie and a full night’s sleep.

  8. I won’t make Exec Plat this year, and won’t pay up for it with these lousy plane fittings.
    Other airlines much better choices.

  9. American will need to review their configurations and perhaps create a small sub fleet of long haul configured 737s if they are serious about putting them on 757 routes. I know they probably don’t care about economy but 8 hours on a non-flat business class could be a deal breaker for many.

    Also worth noting that while they may not have competition on the Brasília route there will be other routes where they will face United and Delta that have lie flat seating on narrow bodies.

    It makes sense as they can use these for longer transcon flights where there is premium demand.

  10. @JW….While Brazil suffers from its problems (as we all do) calling it worthless is a bit odd. It’s the 8th largest economy in the world. It has tremendous natural resources. It is a vast and beautiful and land with a very educated population in the urban centers (arguably the most educated in South America). Has a decent infrastructure. A strong manufacturing sector. And, most importantly, a warm and kind population with a rich and diverse culture.

    Over the past few years, sure, it has suffered somewhat – but as of late is starting to storm back. Yes, there is corruption. Yes, the cities can be dangerous at times if you let your guard down or act stupidly. Really though, is the U.S much better with active shooters, violence, and political maelstroms? Do not underestimate the potential of Brazil, my friend. It is far from a worthless market. Just ask any department store or Best Buy in Miami if they think the Real is “worthless.”

    I suggest you go there, spend some time, eat at the fantastic restaurants, and stay at some of the gorgeous city and beach resorts. Meet the people, talk to them. They are forthcoming with the problems they have as a nation but filled with hope and working hard to build greatness and wealth for their children. As you will often hear them say “We choose to be a happy people to spite our problems.” You will witness this firsthand. The warmth of a Brazilian home or dinner out with friends is truly special. The laughter and joy of life is evident always. It is one of the kindest and most sincere places you will ever visit. This is not Venezuela. Now that is a worthless market, lol.

  11. AA is only phasing out 10 of the 757s by EOY 2020, the domestic config planes that fly PHX-HNL/OGG/LIH/KOA. So that wouldn’t have an impact on their decision to utilize the 737 on this route.

  12. If you want cheap fares this is what you get. I got a great idea, take out 4 rows give everyone more space and then double the airfare to make up for lost revenue. Keep in mind everyone that like every other business in America, American is there to make money not a charity. If you want more leg room then be prepared to pay for it. On board entertainment, big deal if its not there, I use my ipad anyways, and I am happy with it. Otherwise go charter a private plane.

  13. As a Brasilia resident, I lost hope that one day we’ll get a nice business class product. Delta and AF left, AA just made that change and GOL doesn’t offer a J cabin.
    Our market is small, but we still are the capital. Too bad it never last.

  14. @JW It isn’t worthless. Go to MIA any evening and have fun dealing with the hundreds of Brazilians and their 5 checked bags + flat screen TV. Such a lucrative market.

  15. I agree with you Mark.

    First of all, I would double or even triple check your grammar and spelling on your blogs. You don’t come off as a reliable source of any information when your public can’t respect your literary accuracy.

    Moreover, what are your sources?

    I can respect an opinion but not invalid facts. Expand your research. TMZ is not a good source.

    Finally, why don’t you think about blogging about something worth reading that improves humanity
    There are worse things in the world than leg room in the business class cabin of your most-hated airline.

    With all due respect Lucky, you must be better than this.

  16. @stuart. Well said! I just came back from a month in Rio. Everyone complains about the economy but all those bars, restaurants and malls are packed.

  17. A couple of observations on previous comments:

    @Mark Chatter:
    Seems the AA MAX 800 has 26 rows, so if you take out 4 rows you wouldn’t need to double the fare — in fact you only need to increase the average fare by less than 20%

    Why do spend so much time and effort on a blog with which you appear to have so many issues. Lots of other blogs out there. Check them out.

  18. Who ? Care about a stupid plane they all do the same thing they fly and fall from the sky don’t matter how big or small they are if you need leg room cut your leg in half and you all set ,fare they all are over price when a executives fly on on first class they company pay for for stop complaining and get on any stupid plane. Sorry for my grammar i’ tryng to learn English I am doing the best I can thank you.

  19. Stuart. You are being very kind to Brazil. It is the 8th largest economy in the world now, but it used to be the 5th, than the 6th, the 7th..
    Decent infrastrucurure? You must be watching a hollywood movie! There is some concentrated industry in their South and that’s it. On a day to day basis, life is pretty miserable in that region, unless you connect with a helicopter to your final address. And everything is expensive as hell.

  20. So…
    Delta has been flying those small Lavs for years on their airbus aircraft.
    Delta’s new A220 has 30” pitch in Y.

    Remind me again where your outraged posts are about that? You have a really weird anti-AA view.

  21. I recently flew a converted 737-8 (project oasis) from ORD->MIA in main cabin extra. I read this and other avaiation blogs and was expecting a horrendous experience. It was good or as a good you can expect on a 737. I’ll trade the gogo WiFi above 10k ft and In seat entertainment for gate to gate WiFi. The reconfigured overhead bins made the cabin feel roomier – sort of like a house with 9’ vs 8’ ceilings- feels bigger. I’m exec plat this year with AA and the FA’s were proactive with the complementary snack and drinks and social & friendly when discussing the AA fleet and 73M v 738. The bathrooms were not nearly as bad as reported – they were not comfortable either. The cabin that took the hit was FC. Seats looked cheap, limited recline and empty space for tablets looks poorly designed with cheap plastic. I’d fly the plane again – was fine for 2.5 -> 3 hours. And the seats felt wider. After checking seat guru maybe 1/2”

  22. Hey Lucky,
    American has several planes that can make that trip but why send a 1/2 empty wide body when a full 737Max is more economical. American is a business their goal is to make money. If you don’t want to fly on the Max then don’t. Take another airline to some other city then make a connecting flight. Me personally I’d rather be marginally uncomfortable for 8 hours than have a 16-18 hour day for 3” of legroom. Please stop watching Jim Acosta, stop trying to insert yourself in the “story” by trying to pass off your opinions as facts, you come across as a whinebag. P.s. your grammar sucks!

  23. @arsenio. I respect that you find their roads to have potholes. Been to Michigan lately? Pennsylvania? Sure, they rely on trucking and have scant railways. Yes, the traffic can be a headache. Just like LA. But they make it work. It’s not Germany. It’s not even the U.S. But it’s still a wonderful and powerful emerging economy that will drive the future of South America. The potential there is astounding.

    Expensive? Sure, you want Gucci you will pay three times the price. Want a Porsche it’s gonna cost you. But in that realm they have also done amazingly well in building unique Brazilian brands (sans tariffs) that are very reasonable – and while not with the label you might expect do the job just fine. And foreign car manufacturers who produce there can sell at prices more affordable to Brazilians.

    Cost of living you site? I have a 2000 sq ft secure apartment with three balconies in one of the best neighborhoods in S.P. and pay $2K a month. This in one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world. Try and get that in, well, even Houston.

    The architecture movement is world class. Amazing artists and music. The food is quality and reasonable. The pizza is the best outside of Italy. Dare I say that with the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan and the U.S. the Japanese food is incredible. Great beaches. Endless unique spots to visit. Cold and good beer.

    Most of all the people are, for the most part, some of the most genuine, fun and caring you will ever meet.

    Yes, they have teetered on different levels of 7th and 8th largest economies. But the potential with good future leadership is eye opening. And yes, the wealth is concentrated in the south as you say. B.H., S.P., Rio, and Brasilia hold a great deal of the power and money. No, It will never be Germany. But it’s changing and gradually shifting with discoveries of potential in areas like Bahia (which is rapidly growing with tourism…even Anderson Cooper bought a house there recently) and the far northern cities that will eventually find their niche. My argument was not to call Brazil a perfect paradise. But for someone to call it a worthless market is, at the very least, misguided.

  24. Great win for Doug Parker
    Long live Doug Parker

    Even just for Doug to come up with 29 pitch should set expectations for the future.

    RyanAAir service alignment coming soon?

  25. @Stuart I give you a standing ovation and applaud you for your wise, informed, and very nice comments about Brazil. As a Brazilian, I couldn’t agree with you more. You said the exact same thing I would say regarding the country, and you’re incredibly accurate in everything you say. It is a beautiful country, with many problems, sure, but there are so many wealthy Brazilians who travel internationally often and shop till they drop in cities like NYC & Miami. T3 at GRU is incredibly luxurious and modern, & the upscale and diversity of restaurants in SP is second to none. Well said, and thank you. 🙂

  26. Lucky, Brazil doesn’t have LCCs. Domestic flights on GOL, Latam, Azul, Avianca, etc are all one in the same, all coach, with some having extra legroom sections, but thats about it. Prices reflect that as well.

  27. @JW your comment about the Brazilian market being “worthless” is not only ridiculous but LAUGHABLE. If it were worthless, then why does AA, as stated in the article, fly some of their most premium-heavy planes to Brazil? Look up the top 5 nations that most contribute to tourism in the US-Brazil has been in the top 5 for as long as I remember. Wealthy Brazilians travel in business and first back and forth to cities like Miami and NYC multiple times a year just for shopping. They don’t mind dropping R$20k for a plane ticket. Qatar is sending its QSuites to Sao Paulo before LAX. I flew United from NYC last year and first class was full.

    Next time before making ignorant claims, do some research, or better, COME to Brazil to see for yourself. 🙂

  28. Max is not only uncomfortable but also not 100% safe. Lion Air accident revealed the problem, and Boeing still avoids the issue and cancelled the media meeting. I won’t risk my life until Boeing fixes the problem with stalling.
    If it’s Boeing Max, I ain’t going.

  29. This is purely a cost decision for AA based on a perceived lack of competition. This is completely in fitting with the current AA management’s strategy of reducing service to be just as bad as he competition wherever they can.

    There are a lot of people who prefer to have a direct flight to Brasilia, rather than add on 4hrs+ to connect through GRU or GIG, however I think (and hope) the prospect of these appalling Max “business class” seats for 8 hours is enough to see American lose any premium market share on this route.

    It’s worth noting that AA is charging up to $5,000 round trip on this route in “business”! Selling a shoddy and rapidly worsening product at high prices is not a good market plan and hopefully they’ll get punished for this as passengers desert them.

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