The clock is ticking on Malaysia Airlines’ plans for its next-generation Boeing 737 MAX seats, ahead of the arrival of its first MAX jet in early 2020.
However, the Oneworld member is “rethinking” previous plans to install lie-fat seats onto the single-aisle jet, and could opt instead for a more conventional recliner.
“We are rethinking (that), to be honest – we are still evaluating the seats and the configuration of the aircraft,” says Lau Yin May, Malaysia Airlines’ Head of Customer Experience.
“We are looking at what consumers are asking for,” Lau tells Australian Business Traveller, adding that the ruler is being run over Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX network map to look at the length of its flights, “and that will then determine whether it should be lie-flat or a recliner.”
While some airlines taking delivery of the Boeing 737 MAX have opted for lie-flat seats in business class, “more than half are still on recliners,” Lau observes.
The lure of lie-flat
Could Malaysia Airlines chance a dollar each way and split the 737 MAX fleet into some with lie-flat seats and others with recliners? “ We are considering that, “ Lau admits, “but we are also cognisant that managing a single configuration is so much more efficient.’
“We are hoping to have one configuration across the fleet but we are (still) evaluating… if there is a mix of longer routes which require lie-flat we may do that.”
With the first of 15 Boeing 737-8 MAX jets due for delivery in early 2020, Lau says that a decision will be made by April this year.
The business class seats will be chosen from Boeing’s pre-approved catalogue of line-fit products, which covers several leading seatmakers – among them Thompson Aero, who supplied the business class and first class seats for Malaysia Airlines’ Airbus A350 and A330 aircraft and offers its Vantage and Vantage Solo lie-flat seats for single-aisle jets like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families.
In July 2017, Malaysia Airlines' then-CEO Peter Bellew revealed to Australian Business Traveller his plans for adopting lie-flat suites with direct aisle access for all passengers on the Boeing 737 MAX fleet, citing Thompson's Vantage Solo design.
“I’m shamelessly copying what JetBlue have done with Mint, which is a fantastically innovative transcontinental product in the US,” Bellew told Australian Business Traveller at the time. “I’m shamelessly ripping off their ideas!”
JetBlue's groundbreaking Airbus A321 Mint premium class (below) was developed by Thompson and Factorydesign.
The lure of fresh deliveries of the Boeing 737 MAX has seen other airlines opt for flatbeds, led by Flydubai...
… with speculation that Virgin Australia will use the late 2019 delivery of its Boeing 737 MAX jets to launch a lie-flat business class seat for transcontinental flights.
Singapore Airlines’ regionals offshoot SilkAir also plans to introduce next-generation flat beds on its Boeing 737 MAX jets from 2020.