Dawn Gilbertson USA TODAY
Published 11:36 AM EDT Mar 11, 2019
Southwest and American airlines, the biggest U.S. operators of the Boeing 737 Max 8, say they stand by the new plane despite two fatal crashes in less than five months.
Their continued support comes as more of the new planes are being grounded by other airlines and aviation authorities. Ethiopian Airlines grounded its four remaining 737 Max 8s until further notice “as an extra safety precaution” in the wake of the crash and Cayman Airways said it was temporarily grounded its two Max 8s. In addition, China and Indonesia ordered airlines there to ground the plane.
And it comes despite a barrage of questions and concerns from worried passengers since the Sunday crash.
A California woman with tickets on Southwest Airlines to Portland, Oregon, in May asked the airline on Twitter how she can find out what type of plane will be used on the route.
“I don’t want to be on a Boeing Max 8,” she said.
A passenger who recently purchased tickets on Southwest had similar concerns, telling the airline on Twitter that nobody in the family wants to fly the Boeing 737 Max.
Southwest has a variety of responses to concerned travelers, but they all make the same general point: We’re standing by the plane.
“We remain confident in the safety of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft,” the airline said in one response Monday morning. “Southwest has operated approximately 31,000 flights utilizing the Boeing 737 Max, and we plan on operating those aircraft going forward.”
Southwest Airlines has 34 175-seat Max 8s in its fleet and plans to more than double that number this year as well as add its first Boeing Max 7s.
Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said the airline is in contact with Boeing and will stay close to the investigation as it progresses.
“We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft,” he said.
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Southwest is telling passengers who ask how they can find out what type of plane they are due to fly to check back a day before their trip to see the type of aircraft as they aren’t assigned far in advance.
American, which has 24 Max 8s in its fleet of nearly 1,000 planes, is also standing by the Max 8. The airline is telling travelers who raise questions about it on Twitter that it has “full confidence” in the aircraft and the ability of its flight crews.
The airline is also getting questions about whether it’s going to ground its fleet. Its response: “We will closely monitor the (crash) investigation via Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board.”
American is not allowing travelers concerned about the plane to change their travel plans without penalty, as it does ahead of winter storms and other major flight disruptions.
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One New York traveler, posting on Twitter, called it a “customer service failure,” especially since other airlines are grounding the plane.
Southwest hasn’t changed its policies either, Mainz said. Unlike its competitors, Southwest does not charge a ticket change fee. However, passengers have to pay the prevailing fare at the time they change their ticket, which usually means paying more money unless it was a last-minute ticket purchase.
United Airlines doesn’t operate the Max 8 but it does have 14 Max 9s. It is telling passengers on Twitter that it will try to find alternative travel arrangements for those who prefer not to fly it.
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