Tried & Tested

Maxjet B767-200ER business class

1 Dec 2005 by Tom Otley

First impressions: This November 2, 1000 departure was the inaugural flight of Maxjet from London Stansted to JFK. Check-in for Maxjet is from Zone K at London Stansted, to the far left of the departures lounge, and with no queue we were quickly checked in and sent through fast-track security. From there a short shuttle ride took us to our departure gate 16, and the Maxjet lounge.

The lounge: Maxjet has taken over the old SAS lounge, which has been empty for some years. It is a fabulous space with floor to ceiling glass looking out onto the runway on three sides. There's a good choice of food and drink, newspapers and magazines, and though there weren't any computer terminals installed for this flight, we were assured that they have been ordered.

Boarding: Maxjet leaves Stansted daily at 1000 (except Saturday) and we boarded at 0920. We suffered a slight delay, not taking off until 1020. The time was passed with a celebratory washdown by the fire brigade (customary for inaugurals).
The seat: This Boeing 767-200ER aircraft has 102 business class seats arranged six across (2-2-2) with 152cm legroom, 48cm width and reclining to 160 degrees. The seats are in a smart new blue leather trim and the carpets are new in navy blue. The body of the seat is an old design, however, and as such does not have seat power (my laptop power ran out by 1530). There were a few teething problems on this particular flight, not least that the seatbelts were too short to be fitted properly (the buckle ended up on our hips) but I was told that this would be looked into immediately.

The flight: The service was excellent from a crew of eight – although since this was the inaugural and only half full, we had plenty of attention. Minor glitches, such as the amenity kit not arriving in time, were solved by innovation on the part of crew – the flight attendant gave me an eye mask she had "borrowed" from another airline – and their friendliness made up for any uncertainties. Entertainment came in the form of a personal digEplayer handed out by the crew. There were 10 films of recent releases and 10 television programmes. Ten categories of music were also available.

A lunch service (called "dinner" on the menu) arrived within two hours and was a good selection of tasty food. Main course options were beef tenderloin, chilli spiced prawns or roasted pork loin. Strangely though, there were no vegetarian options, and it seemed these would have had to be pre-ordered. Wines included a choice of old and new world wines, a Duval-Leroy champagne and two after-dinner choices (a Piedemonte Moscatel and a ruby port). A snack bar was available throughout the flight and more sandwiches and snacks before landing at JFK.

As a new airline, Maxjet was obliged by the FAA not to stray too far from land on the route, so we enjoyed stunning views of the snow-covered mountains of Greenland. It was also clear for our approach to JFK and we flew over Manhattan, a nice end to the trip.

Verdict: With two business class only products launching from Stansted to JFK within weeks of one another, comparisons will inevitably be made between Eos and Maxjet. Having flown both in the last eight days, it is clear that these are two very different products aimed at different markets. Maxjet is pitching itself at the price of a fully flexible economy class ticket as offered by its competitors (British Airways, Virgin and so on) and so it will appeal to travellers not normally entitled to fly in the premium cabin. From speaking to passengers on the flight, it is clear they are impressed with a business class product at this price. Given the ease of using Stansted, there may well be a ready market for Maxjet.

Price: £854 return including taxes, a reduction – seemingly for the foreseeable future – from the initial announced price of £1278 return.; 0800 023 4300.

Tom Otley

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