Early reports show that US travellers aren’t put off by flying in a Boeing 737 Max, according to American Airlines, who put the beleaguered plane back into service on December 29.
Passengers booking seats on the newly re-certified 737 Max were offered the opportunity to change their booking at no extra cost, but the airline has said all but one of the 14 services that flew between December 29 and January 4 was 90% full – a rise on the 65% average load that American Airlines had for most of 2020. “We’ve implemented rigorous processes to ensure that every plane in the air is safe and our pilots, flight attendants, team members and customers are confident in the return of the 737 MAX,” said David Seymour, chief operating officer at American Airlines.
Even allowing for the traditional popularity of the post-New Year period and the fact that a disproportionate number of aircraft aficionados will have wanted to be among the first to fly in an airplane that was only re-certified by the Federal Aviation Authority in November, the numbers are impressive. Previous polls – including a a Reuters/IPSOS poll in December – showed that a majority of passengers would be wary of flying in a plane whose systems were found to be responsible for two crashes that cost the lives of 346 people and was grounded globally in March 2019.
But US airline executives are bullish about the 737 MAX finding favour with passengers. Southwest Airlines CEO Tom Nealon told the media in November that they were “proud” of the plane and that they would be returning its 34 MAXes to passenger service in April. United Airlines plans to introduce the jet back into service on February 11; Alaska Airlines has said it would start flying its MAXes on March 1.
In Europe, Ryanair put in an order for 75 more &£& MAX aircraft in December, bringing its total to 210 – Europe’s largest by far. The airline has committed to replacing its older Boeing NG fleet with the new aircraft, with Michael O’Leary giving the plane his stamp of approval in December. He told the media that “we are pleased and proud to place this enlarged order with Boeing, who have successfully completed the return to service of the Boeing MAX aircraft. The Boeing MAX is a fabulous aircraft with more seats, more leg room, lower fares, lower fuel consumption, and it sets incredible environmental standards, including 40% less noise and lower CO2 emissions.”
IAG signalled its intent to buy 200 of the jets in June 2019, while Turkish Airlines has 75 of them in its fleet – with re-certification expected in the coming months.