Boeing 737 Max Is Back In U.S. Skies

After almost two years grounded around the world, the Boeing 737 Max resumed passenger flights this Tuesday.

American Airlines Flight 718 departed Miami around 10:30 am ET to LaGuardia Airport, in New York City, where it landed at 1:10 pm ET.

According to the company, the flight was mostly full, and the airline President Robert Isom was among the passengers to reassure the public over the plane’s safety.

Miami to New York is a daily flight, and AA plans to gradually return the 737 Max to service.

The best-selling jet in Boeing’s fleet was grounded in March 2019, after two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. 

The first one was the Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, in Indonesia, which killed all 189 passengers and crew. The second was the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, in Ethiopia, that killed 157 people.

It was discovered that a problem in a safety feature in the flight control system caused the crashes.

The grounding was lifted in the U.S. by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mid-November after Boeing carried out flight control updates, maintenance work, pilot training, and town hall meetings with flight crews.

Gradual Come Back

A Reuters/Ipsos poll, released this Monday (Dec 28), shows that when respondents were told about the aircraft’s safety issues, 57% said they were not likely to fly in a Boeing 737 MAX, while 37% say they would be likely to fly in it once it has been in the air for six months or more.

Passengers on all of AA’s Max flights will be given advance warning, with the option to rebook to another flight, the airline said. The company has ordered 76 Boeing Max jets to add to its current fleet of 24 Max aircrafts.

United Airlines announced it expects to use the 737 Max next February, and Southwest only in the second quarter of 2021.

American Airlines is the third carrier globally to resume flights with the 737 Max following the Brazilian Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes and Grupo Aeromexico earlier this month. 

Boeing still has a long way to go to bring back all the 737 Max fleet to the sky since it sold 387 jets to 59 airlines across 32 countries. Only 72 are used in domestic flights in the US.

Europe’s aviation safety agency, EASA, is expected to give the 737 Max permission to return to service in Europe in mid-January.

Paying the Price

The process to prepare the plane to fly again took longer than expected and cost more than $20 billion to Boeing.

And the company still faces death lawsuits by victims’ families over the safety issues that led to the crashes. 

In these 20 months, when the planes were grounded, and deliveries of the jet halted, Boeing shares lost about 50%. 

This Tuesday, Boeing stock rose 0.16% to $216.25.

Slowly the company is boosting orders for its workhorse single-aisle jet.

Last week (Dec 22), Alaska Airlines agreed to buy 23 additional Boeing 737 Max planes, the first order from a U.S. carrier since regulators cleared the aircraft to fly again.

It will buy 68 of the 737 Max 9 planes, up from the 32 it had previously ordered. Alaska will buy 23 of them from Boeing and lease 13 others from Air Lease. Alaska also announced options to buy 52 other Max planes.

Early December, Irish airline Ryanair placed an order for 75 more Boeing 737 Max aircraft, by far the largest order for the troubled plane since it was grounded. The largest discount airline in Europe already had placed orders for 135 of the Max aircraft, making it one of the jet’s largest customers in the world.