United finally received their first Boeing 737 MAX 8 this summer. The inaugural revenue flight went through a butt-ton of schedule changes; instead of being flight 408 the day before (15 July), it ended up being flight 789 one day later (16 July). Heck in the 48 hours up to the inaugural flight, the schedule changed at least three times.
But being an airplane geek who'd just done United's 737 MAX 9 return to service a few months ago, well, why not do the 737 MAX 8, too?
Managed to get super lucky through all the schedule changes the last two days and ended up on the inaugural flight. Even got a chance to talk to the ferry crew, fresh from Hawaii and California the past few days, who said it was a wonderful plane to fly. Not much in the way of other airplane geeks on the flight, and as far as media, only United's internal staff were in attendance. Most passengers had no idea the flight was anything special until the gate agents and the flight crew made a few announcements, including a Panasonic representative onboard to help troubleshoot any user issues with the new seat-back entertainment.
Onboard experience looked to be the same in first class as most other United 737's, including the 737 MAX 9. In the back, the 54 Economy Plus seats got a new purple color scheme that actually worked out, while the 96 economy seats got the same. The 10" screens, Bluetooth (!!!), and in-seat power at every seat all worked well, and the internet, while still not fast, was a solid improvement over the previous system. Hopefully the 737 MAX 9 fleet will get the new IFE too, although I suspect much of that fleet is going to stay in the current, screen-deprived configuration. Only real complaint was the tray tables, which were on the small side.
Had a smooth flight from Houston to Las Vegas (IAH-LAS), and while no one will call the 737 a quiet airplane, the 737 MAX is definitely improved over the previous-generation 737NG. Those big CFM LEAP-1B engines and the split winglets are kind of cool to see, too.
Not quite three hours later, and to not much fanfare other than another flight crew announcement, the inaugural flight was completed and arrived safely in scorching hot Las Vegas.