Six MAX -8 aircraft are now in FlyDubai’s fleet and plenty more are coming – the original order in 2013 covers 76 aircraft and 150 were ordered at the Dubai Airshow in November. In time, the regular 737s will be phased out as more MAX come on stream.
I was part of a delegation on a flying visit to mark the resumption of Kilimanjaro flights (introduced October 2014) and the route is served six-times weekly and three link with Dar Es Salaam.
The aircraft was used to mark the relaunch but isn’t on the first wave of routes (see panel). Tanzania is now served with 14 flights a week with Dar and Zanzibar too.
The dedicated business class check-in is at the end of Terminal 2 departures near immigration. I passed through the e-gate (no Smart Gates yet) and relaxed in the lounge.
Split over two levels, the bottom floor contains a dining area and selection of hot dishes, snacks and drinks and upstairs offers more comfortable lounge seating.
We walked through the business class lane at the end to a holding lounge and onto the bus. This unassuming corner of Dubai Airport not only had the new MAX with its distinctive split-design winglets but also the 7000-liveried B737 was parked opposite.
We boarded the front and you immediately enter the 10-seat business class cabin (two less than normal B737s, the highlight being the two single seats on the second row). The overhead lockers are deep enough for carry ons but this is a narrowbody aircraft and it felt busy with 10 people settling in; take care not to bump your head if you’re in the window seats.
The custom-made Thompson Vantage seats are comfortable and thoughtfully designed with headphone and USB ports by your shoulder (on older B737s, the headphone jack is by the screen which can be awkward if passengers need to step out). A narrow storage area is thick enough to hold your travel documents or mobile, and there is a section for a small water bottle, and more storage by your feet. The seat reclines into 180-degree flatbed by sliding the first button forward and there is a small handset which I didn’t use much with basic volume/brightness controls.
I enjoyed the ‘throne seat’ (2B) on the way out and slept soundly for most of the night flight, and returned in 1A which was fine; each seat is encased in its shell and the fold-down table fixture doubles up as a privacy divider. Another innovation is the car-style seatbelt although I didn’t find it easy to loosen and sometimes it tangled up with the headphones.
Economy passengers have adjustable headrests and the emergency exit rows (15/16) offer extra legroom (AED200 surcharge).
I saw this aircraft (A6-MAX) at the Dubai Airshow static display so it was an unexpected treat to fly on it so soon. DXB is busy at this time and we left half an hour after our 0240 scheduled departure.
Whether it’s the ‘re-engined’ aircraft or the noise-cancellation headphones, I found it quieter than your standard B737.
The 15.6-inch HD screen shows a good selection of films – if not quite in partner Emirates’ ICE league – and the audio was very clear.
I found the F&B adequate. On the way out I had a standard-plane egg (‘scrambled egg’) and chicken sausage and the return meal, I wasn’t offered bread, though it was available, and there was a mix-up with the menu cards. This might be an area that needs some attention, particularly now flydubai is codesharing with Emirates. Amenity bags are being considered for longer flights.
We had some moderate turbulence as we met a jet stream on the return, around Salalah, but otherwise it was smooth both ways.
The single ‘throne’ seats are the best as they have a storage cupboard and large area where you can keep your laptop and spread out.
We had a warm African welcome in Kilimanjaro with dancers and drummers by the apron. It was a tight hour on the ground in which a press conference, gift exchange and cake-cutting were completed before we took off to Dar, which took on new passengers, and was cleaned, prior to returning to Dubai.
It would have been great to spend more time in green Tanzania but it was a good opportunity to test the MAX to the max.
This is a sharp product and marked improvement, and perfectly comfortable for flydubai’s longer flights. I felt fine arriving back in DXB at the end of the 18-hour travel day.
It’s still early days for the MAX though and some services will need to bed in.
Two ‘throne’ seats
Business class return fares start from AED4,525 including taxes and 40kg checked baggage. Economy fares start from AED1,395 with 7kg hand baggage.
6 hours 5 minutes
2-2 (1-1 second row)
Seat width 20.6-22.3in
The MAX -8s are initially earmarked for Bangkok, Kiev, Moscow SVO, Bucharest, Prague and Asmara.