General

737 MAX – Why Won’t US Airlines Ground Them?

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Is the Boeing 737 MAX safe to fly?

I’ve stayed pretty silent on the 737 MAX issue, at least publicly, thus far for a simple reason: I’m not an aviation expert. My expertise is as a passenger on these planes, not as an armchair pilot or engineer. I have, however, checked my own flights and those of friends of loved ones to make sure none of us were scheduled to fly one.

And so my decision to finally opine on the state of the 737 MAX right now is as a spectator, but a spectator with opinions.

As most of you are aware, the Boeing 737 Max is the plane type that has crashed not once, but twice in the last 5 months. First, Lion Air in Indonesia, and on Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines.

While I’ll be quick to point out that we don’t know that the plane crashes are related, we do not know that they are not. And to me, when it comes to aviation, “abundance of caution” should be the MO.

As of now, the European Union has grounded all 737 MAX flights (including over EU airspace). They join France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman following China’s and Indonesia’s grounding (Source: NY Times).

United doesn’t fly the 737 MAX, although they do fly the related 737 MAX 9 (and have stated on Twitter that those concerned about flying the aircraft can contact them for accommodation) but Southwest and American Airlines fly many of them (AA mostly to/from Miami but not exclusively). Neither airline has yet offered free changes to passengers scheduled to fly on a MAX, though personally if you are scheduled to fly one, I would not hesitate to suggest that you call and ask a supervisor to help you make a fee-free change.

Why?

Out of an abundance of caution.  Boeing has already said they plan to release new software for the plane based on the Lion Air crash.  To me, that says there is a *potential* issue until that patch is applied.

Again, the chances of a plane crash are beyond small. And I take no issue with those that point out your chances of a fatality on a highway far surpass the possibility of a plane crash, but 2 crashes of the same plane type, a brand new plane type no less, should give pause.

American and Southwest should proactively allow flight changes and/or ground the MAX.

Why? An abundance of caution first and foremost, but how about the PR goodwill of showing you care enough to wait for the data to come back, one way or the other, before flying one more flight on these?

Right now they should be providing peace of mind and peace of mind is not “we are flying until we know conclusively there is a problem.” It should be “We will ground the planes until we know there is NOT a problem.”

Update: Southwest will now allow free changes, no fare difference.

Are you scheduled on a MAX?

Head to flightaware.com and type in your flight number, i.e. AA2437, and see if it says MAX. A 737-800 is NOT a Max. A B38M or 737MAX would tip you off. This is a MAX

Why hasn’t the FAA joined most of the world in grounding the MAX?

Your guess is as good as mine. My non-expert opinion is politics. I suspect they will have finally grounded the plane before most of you have read this post. I hope I’m right.

Thoughts? Tell me here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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