Relief and Shock: How Passengers Just off a 737 MAX Reacted to the US Grounding
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The scene at LaGuardia Airport’s (LGA) Terminal B on Wednesday afternoon was seemingly business as usual. Passengers disembarked American Airlines Flight 1556, crowded the baggage claim, and waited for the conveyor belt to jolt into action.
Yet, most of them didn’t know that the aircraft they’d arrived on — the Boeing 737 MAX 8 — had been grounded in the US by order of the Federal Aviation Administration just less than an hour earlier.
It didn’t take long for that to change, however. With TV crews swarming, and breaking news and social media alerts on their phones, the passengers of AA1556 from Miami quickly understood that they had just stepped off a plane that had been banned from flying.
Some of them reacted with relief, and others were completely shocked.
Cynthia W., who preferred not to give her last name, is a good example of the latter. For the past five days, she’d been on a cruise with family and friends. Relatively off the grid, she didn’t know about the stir the that the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash left in its wake, its connection to the Lion Air crash that happened months before or the countries and airlines grounding the 737 MAX all over the world.
“I read about the crash, but I didn’t know it was related,” Cynthia said. She originally thought that the commotion (including a 30-minute delay in Miami) had something to do with the impending bad weather conditions. “When we were leaving, we were delayed because they had to check something,” she added. “They didn’t tell us what.”
Across the board, passengers reported that despite the delay, nothing about the flight experience seemed particularly abnormal.
Khalid Khalid, a 33-year-old frequent flyer from Wisconsin, admitted that he didn’t find anything strange about the plane. “The attendant told me that they were grounding it after this [flight],” he said. “But I didn’t notice anything.”
Usually, Khalid checks to see what type of aircraft he’s flying before embarking, but this time he didn’t. “I just didn’t pay attention,” he said. “When I was boarding, I realized.” However, when the realization dawned on him that he’d be aboard a MAX 8, he admitted that he didn’t really care.
Claudia and Gonzalo Otaola are frequent flyers on the Miami to LaGuardia route. Gonzalo, prior to boarding, knew about the issues with the MAXs but decided to keep the information to himself. “I wasn’t concerned at all,” Otaola said. “The pilots here have many, many, many hours flying this plane. They know more about the program.”
The grounding of the 737 MAXs in the US will affect 350,000 seats a week with American carriers. Southwest has 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, American Airlines has 24 and United has 14 of the larger MAX 9s, which are also grounded in the US. The most affected route, in terms of daily flights, is Miami to LaGuardia and back, with 56 flights a week on American Airlines.
Despite the potential delays and cancellations to come, Otaola hopes all will return to normal soon.
“Hysteria isn’t the word for it, but it’s been one country, then another one, then another one,” said Otaola. “The pressure is gigantic for the United States. I think it’s the right move, just to be safe, but I don’t think it’s going to last too long. I hope that in three days I go back in my MAX 8 to Miami.”
Featured image of LGA by Bruce Bennett / Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees