Flight Review: flydubai Boeing 737 MAX - Economy Class (I)
Flight #: FZ918
From: Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO)
To: Dubai International (DXB)
Flight time: 5h 15min approx.
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800 MAX
Class: Economy (with extra space seat)
This was a trip that had long been in my calendar. To be more exact, since flydubai launched their Boeing 737 MAX flights to Moscow Sheremetyevo a few months ago.
So, when flydubai offered to try out their state-of-the-art aircraft on my way to an interview with their senior management in Dubai, it was not a matter of thinking twice about it...
The trip to Dubai was on economy class, although on one of the seats with extra space, and the return one was in business class. So, I have divided my flight review in two parts, with the second one coming up shortly.
For more background info on flydubai and the strategy and plans of this airline, you can check the piece I wrote for AirInsight upon my return from Dubai.
First a few words about the pre-flight experience, which was pretty good.
Besides the online check-in part, that was really smooth, some words of praise for the ground staff (which I don't know if technically work for flydubai or by a local contractor. I had missed an early land transportation connection and I arrived to the airport quite late, so a member of the staff volunteered to escort me all the way to the passport control area, where he made sure I could get into the fast lane and made it through.
Elegant minimalism. This is the impression I got when walking into the flydubai Boeing 737 MAX cabin for the first time.
flydubai's cabin interior concept is the work of travel design specialists JPA Design.
Although it is often labeled as a "low cost carrier", the fact is that flydubai's experience has little in common to what you would expect in your typical European or American LCC or even hybrid carrier.
To start with, there are two clearly delimited cabins, Business and Economy, with a har, physical, separation between the two, as you can see in the photo below.
The first row of economy is a sort of "premium" economy with extra space seats, that are sold at an extra cost.
Although not comparable with flydubai's own business class (as we shall soon see in the corresponding review), it is actually a very nice experience for an economy class.
There is plenty of space with these seats, that also achieve a notable degree of recline.
Each seat is equipped with its own screen and Zodiac's Rave IFE system.
The difference is that the service is included for business class passengers, while economy class passengers have to pay for access (there are two packs of content that you can choose from)
The IFE system also works as an inflight shop and, in fact, it replaces the inflight magazine too (although there is still a paper Duty Free magazine).
The 5h 15min flight time is on the long edge of flydubai's flight radius, that gets up to 6.5h flight-time from Dubai (the introduction of MAX aircraft has actually helped push this range a bit further, to places like Helsinki, for example).
We were served a drink and a hot meal.
Again, while it is included in business class, economy class passengers must pay for it. Passengers can place their orders through the IFE system
During the flight I had the chance to enjoy one drink serving (above) and a hot meal (below)
One of the great features of the MAX is that it is a very quiet aircraft, which, together with the cabin lights (that in this particular case were in line with flydubai's orange-blue corporate identity) adds much to the sense of comfort.
By the way, you can see here in this pic how most of the passengers were busy with the IFE system (it was a day flight after all, so not many people were trying to sleep)
With these type of comforts, the flight happened really quickly...
"With the MAX we are bringing the wide-body experience to a narrow body aircraft" told me later Jeyhund Efendi, Senior VP Commercial at flydubai.
And indeed, this sums up pretty much the sensation I got.
flydubai is present at both Dubai International (DXB) as well as the new Al Maktoum airport (DWC), but most of its flights remain at DXB, where it uses Terminal 2, just opposite the main terminal. This is a smaller and more modest terminal, but it is actually quite efficient. It is essentially a large open plan building located all at ground level, so it takes only a few minutes to reach the street from the gate.
The Boeing 737 MAX provides a superb experience.
And, yes, I was on the best seat of the economy class cabin, but I also had the chance to sit for a bit on one of the regular seats to try it out, and I think that, overall, the experience is not so different and equally good.
The business class experience is on another level, but this will be a topic for the next article...!