American Airlines CEO Says It’s Just Politics That’s Keeping 737 MAX From Flying

At an employee question and answer forum this past week American Airlines CEO Doug Parker was asked about the timeline for bringing the Boeing 737 MAX back into service.

He said – as he’s offered before – that when American Airlines pilots fly it, the plane will be safe. And he noted British Airways parent IAG ordering the aircraft as a huge sign of confidence in the aircraft.

Parker believes it’s really just politics – and not safety – that is holding up flying the 737 MAX again,

What I understand is there is an absolute software fix that is this close to being certified but they’ve been saying that for awhile. I think as much as anything now it may be politics as much the true certification and kind of safety issue.

I don’t think the FAA wants to be alone in doing this and may want some other countries to come along. But there absolutely is a fix. We at American are selling tickets on 737s.. We’re selling it for September 4 we wouldn’t be selling it if we didn’t think it would be flying by then.

Of course American had taken the MAX out of the schedule into June, and into August, each time selling tickets for Boeing 737 MAX travel beyond those dates.

And since the airline needs to put together schedules that their employees will bid to fly in September in early July they may push out the scheduled return of the 737 MAX again soon so they don’t put out “bid schedules that don’t reflect the actual flying we’re going to do.”

As a result, Parker says, “If we’re not much more certain than we are today that..it’s going to be ready on September 4, you may see us push it back another month…sometime early- to mid-July.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Doug Parker has demonstrated his complete confidence in the 737 Max at all times. When it first came out, before Crash 1; then after Crash 1. After Crash 2 since they kept flying it and assured us it was safe. And once again today. Very consistent. I imagine his next statment will be that he is going to require ALL of Management at AA to fly only the 737 Max for the next 2 years – in the last 3 rows of the plane each time. Now that would truly demonstrate his belief in AA and the Max.

  2. Parker’s record of talking nonsense is impressive (he even comes over as delusional on occasions) so it’s getting increasingly difficult to know when he’s actually in touch with reality.

  3. @JohnB

    So I guess it’s politics that Boeing designed a fundamentally flawed airplane and then tried to fix it with sloppily developed software they didn’t fully disclose to the regulators and pilots?

    I’m thinking after a company kills 300 through negligence and incompetence it might not be a bad idea to really really scrutinize their fix and maybe not trust their statements at face value.

  4. This was the same man ultimately responsible for the lives and safety of millions who said while the MAX was flying, after two crashes, it was perfectly safe with American’s skilled pilots. That is, before the safety problems were uncovered one by one.

    So if you take his truthiness track record, i would suggest the opposite. It is Boeing that is holding this up by piss poor corporate governance.

  5. I think Parker is right on this one. One thing that’s got overlooked in this whole discussion the training aspect. By the time a pilot flies a 737, even as a first officer, for an airline in the United States, he’s had a few thousand hours of flight experience, including a bunch as a captain of a smaller aircraft. So even your FO has a good chunk of experience.

    Things are different overseas. I’m pretty sure the FO of the second crash had something like 300 hours of *TOTAL TIME*. This is nothing. In the US, commercial pilot minimums are 250 hours TT, and after the crash up in New York state a few years ago, FAA raised the TT requirement to 1500 hours for an FO of a regional airline.

    So Parker’s right. There’s politics at all levels of this, in many different ways. He’s also right that with American’s trained and competent pilots, the aircraft is safe in their hands.

    Maybe the real issue is that training requirements for foreign carriers need to go up. But then Boeing will have a harder time selling the plane, and for the most part, the system is pretty safe.

    That aside, Max issues or not, pilots with 300 hours TT flying a transport category aircraft of that size worries me.

  6. I remember well my first flight in a 737-200 way back in 1970 (in the UK), the first of many for business and leisure, working through to the 737-800 model so loved by Ryanair who manage to squeeze in 189 “sardines”. But when I think back to the car I was driving in 1970, doubling its length with big overhangs without increasing its track or wheelbase, putting a massive engine up front and doubling the carrying capacity from 5 people to 10 plus luggage, would I be surprised if now it didn’t feel very stable? Of course not.
    Airlines are businesses trying not to lose money and Boeing were trying to maximise their profits by taking a short cut, which misfired with fatal results.
    Would I ever fly in a Max? Of course not. Should anybody?

  7. Given how many people here are looking to hate on Parker, it would be nice if you actually quoted him correctly in your headline. He said the further delay in returning the Max to service MAY be politics. You’d be hard pressed to find an aviation professional in the US who would disagree with that assessment.

  8. I may not remember accurately but I think it was also politics that cause the USA to be one of the last to ground it.

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