Somehow, after all these past years, I still hadn’t made it on a Boeing 737 MAX. I’d been scheduled to fly one a handful of times, with a last-minute aircraft swap to a next-gen type instead. Every time. But not this trip. In November I finally flew a 737 MAX. Specifically, an Air Canada 737 MAX 8.

I actually flew four segments on the MAX 8. My itinerary was a return from San Francisco (SFO) to Ottawa (YOW) via Vancouver (YVR). Air Canada operated the aircraft type on each. So, I got quite the introduction. And now I know what I like and what I don’t.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Ottawa

Flying the 737 MAX Used to Worry Me. Not Anymore.

I swore off flying the MAX 8 after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia. Hours of scouring various articles and exposes led me to the conclusion that Boeing had done their best to solve an aerodynamics problem with software. Not exactly a brilliant idea.

So, I decided to give it time. I figured 12+ months with zero serious incidents or near-misses should be enough to prove the aircraft. Two terrible disasters means that pilots are going to be extra aware of what caused the previous two crashes. If it didn’t happen again, the issue should be resolved.

I actively avoided the type for over a year after it reentered service. But afterwards it seemed like it avoided me. I’m actually glad it took so long for me to fly the 737 MAX, as it allowed me to approach my Air Canada flights with anticipation rather than anxiety.

a hand holding a ticket

First Time Passing Through Vancouver (YVR)

The first hop was uneventful except for some substantial turbulence descending into YVR. Tired from the day, I snoozed, not paying much attention to my first MAX flight. A delay didn’t help. I overnighted at the Westin Wall Centre, waking up far more enthusiastic about my next leg to Ottawa.

Things weren’t all that busy at Vancouver International. A couple airline queues had long lines early in the morning, but overall, the airport was pretty tame. Without luggage to check, I cleared security in less than 10 minutes.

people in a terminal

You can check the security checkpoint times through the CATSA – Breeze through Security app. I monitored the wait times the evening before and morning of my flight. They didn’t break above an estimated 10 minutes. I’d read some horror stories about major waits at Canadian airports. Turned out the app was right on the money. I’ll definitely use it on my next adventure to Canada.

a screenshot of a phone

I clearly need to bring the kids next time I pass through YVR. One of my sons has over a dozen of these scale model planes. He’d love these. I’ve never seen a collection quite like it.

a group of model airplanes on a table

I wouldn’t get to see the views from Vancouver Airport until my return flight. But they were as lovely as I expected. Worth the wait. Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in North America, and nostalgia set in even thought I was just connecting through YVR. I’ll need to visit British Columbia again soon.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 YVR

Enough of the airport. On to the aircraft.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8: The Basics

Air Canada has 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in service. Of the three MAX variants, this is the only one they have ordered. Their short-haul mainline fleet otherwise consists of Airbus planes.

Each Air Canada 737 MAX 8 has 16 business class seats (recliner seats, like U.S. domestic first class) and 153 economy seats for a total of 169 seats. Standard economy offers 30 inches of pitch, while Air Canada’s Preferred cabin offers another 3-4 inches of legroom. Seats offer seat-back in-flight entertainment, which is a plus if you’re on a longer flight.

You can find the MAX operating a variety of Canadian domestic and select international routes. I’ve seen the MAX 8 at SFO multiple times, one of their common U.S. destinations.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Cabin

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Economy: The Good

The upside of flying an Air Canada 737 MAX 8 is that you’re guaranteed a new aircraft. These planes are, on average, less than four years old. There were fewer signs of wear and tear that are noticeable on older aircraft.

The large seat-back IFE screens on the 737 MAX are a major plus. My sons always ask whether our flights will have these. They know which airlines do and which don’t, in general, cheering when I tell them we are flying Delta and groaning if I tell them the next trip is on Southwest. It’s good to know Air Canada has them on their 737 MAXes.

The IFE is clear and crisp. I also love the photography of the destination displayed at boarding. The seat numbers are a nice touch, too, ensuring passengers are in the correct seat.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8  IFE

I thought I’d made a mistake by not selecting a seat ahead of time on Air Canada’s site. However, this turned out to be a boon, as I received a seat in the Preferred section on three out of four Air Canada 737 MAX 8 flights. This was especially nice on the longer flights between Vancouver and Ottawa. I was also fortunate enough to never receive a middle seat.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Preferred Leg Room

The seats themselves are comfortable, and the headrests are adjustable. You can’t really ask for more from a short- or medium-haul economy seat.

The seats offer both a universal power outlet and a USB outlet. I was glad both my phone and computer stayed completely charged during the multi-hour flight to Ottawa.

The Air Canada flight attendants were cheerful and professional. Not that I would expect anything less from them.

a view of clouds from an airplane

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Economy: The Bad

There are a few blemishes to Air Canada 737 MAX economy, though.

It may seem like a small detail, but I am not a fan of these tray tables. They aren’t great for the laptop I have. A smaller one would likely work a lot better. The only saving grace was being seated in the Preferred section. If I had been in standard economy, I would have had to use my laptop from my lap.

I know. It’s in the name. But working from the table height is usually better. But not always.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Seats

The lack of snacks was the biggest surprise. Either I missed it every time, or they did not serve standard snacks in economy. Just drinks. I bought a smoked salmon sandwich that was a bit squashed, but otherwise alright. Definitely needed a bite to eat on the return flight from Ottawa to Vancouver.

a bagel with salmon and greens on a white paper

Another gripe is the lavatory. They’re tiny. The sink design tends to result in water on the floor, and it’s not all that easy to wash your hands. The photo below is the cleanest I ever saw one of these.

Air Canada 737 MAX 8 Lavatory

Final Thoughts

After this experience on the Air Canada 737 MAX 8 in economy, I’d gladly fly it again. It had been years since I’d flown Air Canada, and I was glad for the good experience. One of these years I hope to hit the carrier up for my first long-haul flight with them, so I might find myself on another 737 MAX 8 en route to Vancouver to connect overseas. At least that’s what I’m envisioning.