What North American Airlines Are Doing About Their 737 MAX Fleets

Mar 11, 2019

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Following the tragic Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash on Sunday, airline crew members and passengers around the world are expressing safety concerns about the aircraft involved: the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

The Ethiopian crash, in which 157 people died, is the second fatal accident involving a MAX 8 in just five months. October’s Lion Air flight 610 crash was also operated by a MAX 8. Due to the deadly crashes involving the aircraft just months apart, multiple airlines around the world have grounded the MAX 8s in their fleets. US carriers and other North American airlines, however, have said their MAX 8s will continue to fly.

Despite this, on Monday, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), Sarah Nelson, released a statement calling for the US Federal Aviation Administration to conduct an investigation of the aircraft.

“It is vitally important that U.S. airlines work with Boeing, the FAA, and the NTSB to address concerns and take steps to ensure confidence for the traveling public and working crews,” Nelson says in the statement. ” While it is important that we not draw conclusions without all of the facts, in the wake of a second accident, regulators, manufacturers, and airlines must take steps to address concerns immediately. AFA is formally requesting the FAA conduct an investigation into the 737 MAX.”

Nelson also highlighted the similarities between the Ethiopian crash and the Lion Air crash. Aside from the same aircraft, both crashes happened within 20 minutes of takeoff and both flight crews struggled to maintain a steady, upward climb.

North American airlines that have the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in their fleets include American Airlines, Westjet, Air Canada, Aeromexico, COPA and Southwest. TPG reached out to the airlines to see what their plans were, but none of the airlines responded to phone calls or emails within a timely manner aside from Southwest. “As Southwest operates a fleet of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, we have been in contact with Boeing and will continue to stay close to the investigation as it progresses,” Southwest said in an email to TPG. “We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our entire fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737 aircraft, and we don’t have any changes planned to 737 MAX operations.”

They also said that they will be responding to concerned customers individually emphasizing their no-change-fee policy.

The other airlines were, however, responding to nervous customers on Twitter. For the most part, it seems airlines are not waiving change fees for passengers booked on 737 MAX 8s.

The 737 MAX 8 flies a variety of routes for these airlines. With 34 of the variant, Southwest operates the largest MAX 8 fleet in North America. The carrier plans to eventually introduce the MAX on its new routes to Hawaii, which will first be served by the Boeing 737-800. American operates 22 MAX 8s, including high-traffic routes like Miami (MIA) to New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Miami (MIA) to Boston (BOS).

For a full look at where airlines are flying the 737 MAX 8, check out our guide here.

Feature photo by Max Prosperi/TPG.

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