DBEA55AED16C0C92252A6554BC1553B2 Clicky DBEA55AED16C0C92252A6554BC1553B2 Clicky
May 30, 2024
Care to share?

News:

American Airlines announced that it is planning customer tours of the 737 MAX and pilot calls to boost confidence in the aircraft. American is planning to reintroduce the MAX into passenger service in late December, with flights between LGA and MIA starting December 29th through January 4th, pending the re-certification of the aircraft by the FAA.

While the statement from the FAA states that the agency “continues to follow a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the aircraft to service,” American is confident that the recertification is in its final phase. David Seymour, American’s COO, told employees “we are seeing the finish line approach us and I think it’s a real finish line.”

American will offer some customers a chance after Thanksgiving to tour the aircraft in person at airports, including Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York LaGuardia, and Miami, with the participation of pilots and mechanics to answer questions related to the safety of the MAX.

Analysis

Not everyone agrees that promoting the return of the MAX is a good idea. Dennis Tajer, spokesperson for the Allied Pilots Association and a 737 pilot stated “There are 346 to be respectful and not have a PR campaign. When the MAX is fixed, fully vetted, and we’ve been robustly trained, then it will be time to just go fly the jet.”

American is concerned about a potential backlash against the MAX, which after two fatal crashes and an 18-month grounding, has many potential customers concerned about flying on it. The airline plans to notify customers that their flight is on a MAX, and will allow customers who are uncomfortable flying on the aircraft to switch to another flight.

Interestingly, Southwest, the largest MAX customer, is waiting for the FAA recertification before committing to beginning flights, anticipating a second-quarter 2021 return to service. United indicated it will put the planes back on schedule “likely sometime next year based on the schedule we hear from the FAA and Boeing” according to their CCO, Andrew Nocella.  American is pushing hard to be the first to put the plane back in service.

Insight

American appears to be quite anxious to get the MAX back in service, as it has retired its MD-80 fleet and will need the replacement lift once traffic enables schedules to return to closer to normal levels. They are also looking forward to the improved fuel burn and lower maintenance costs with the new aircraft. But given the pandemic and economic fallout, most analysts do not believe that a full traffic recovery will happen until late 2023 or early 2024 domestically. They really don’t need new aircraft immediately in today’s environment of slow traffic.

So why is American pushing the issue? Clearly, they must believe that many people will be skittish to fly the MAX if they are already offering to change flights to one flown using a different aircraft. Airlines have historically been loathe to advertise or publicly discuss safety for years for one primary reason – it could potentially backfire. While we would all pray that nothing like that would happen, there is always the risk that an incident could occur with the MAX due to unforeseen issues, severe weather, or human error.

American has a lot of 737 MAX aircraft on order, and unless the public perceives the MAX as safe, it will stand to lose competitive advantage at a time the airline needs every advantage it can find to recover from the global pandemic. The carrier needs to know if there will be a longer-lasting backlash against the MAX before it takes on a large fleet.

This is the first extended grounding of an aircraft for safety since the advent of social media. We expect a potential consumer backlash against the MAX until it can be proven through experience that the airplane is once again safe. A Facebook campaign to boycott the MAX, including how to identify a new MAX from an older 737 NG, is likely to occur as the aircraft returns to service.

With EASA specifying additional modifications beyond the FAA requirements, including a synthetic third sensor and giving Boeing and European airlines extra time to comply, which complicates the message that the airplane is as safe as it should be. The message is just that it is “safe enough” to resume flying while other items are “cleaned up” later. Ditto for Transport Canada, which will likely mandate a switch to turn off an errant stick-shaker rather than having pilots pull a circuit breaker.

American has decided to pull out all the stops to support the early return to service of the MAX. The question is whether this is a well-calculated risk assessment or marketing folly.

News:

American Airlines announced that it is planning customer tours of the 737 MAX and pilot calls to boost confidence in the aircraft. American is planning to reintroduce the MAX into passenger service in late December, with flights between LGA and MIA starting December 29th through January 4th, pending the re-certification of the aircraft by the FAA.

While the statement from the FAA states that the agency “continues to follow of thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the aircraft to service,” American is confident that the recertification is in its final phase. David Seymour, American’s COO, told employees “we are seeing the finish line approach us and I think it’s a real finish line.”

American will offer some customers a chance after Thanksgiving to tour the aircraft in person at airports, including Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York Laguardia, and Miami, with the participation of pilots and mechanics to answer questions related to the safety of the MAX.


Subscriber content – Sign in Monthly Subscription   Annual Subscription    

author avatar
Ernest Arvai
President AirInsight Group LLC