American Airlines Hides “737 MAX” From Passengers

After the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded in the aftermath of two fatal crashes, Southwest passengers were freaking out over a safety card – thinking they were flying on MAX, which wasn’t supposed to be in commercial service.

Southwest Airlines used the same safety card for Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX aircraft, and so the card had both aircraft names on it. That was confusing to passengers, so Southwest came up with new safety cards.

American Airlines has gone in the reverse direction. Their safety cards now say Boeing 737 whether it is a MAX or not.

The crew admin screen on the aircraft still shows ‘737 MAX’, so it’s just the customer facing seat back paper that appears to have been changed.

Boeing has made a run at rebranding the plane in light of its history. Since then new delivery MAX aircraft were even grounded for electrical issues.

However American Airlines offers,

Our fleet harmonization plan began a few years ago and part of that plan included the standardization of safety cards, including for Boeing 737 and Airbus 321 aircraft. The approach for the MAX safety card is consistent with other fleet types where we do not have different safety cards for sub-fleets.

It’s odd to me to call the 737 MAX a ‘subfleet’ rather than a different aircraft type. It isn’t just a group of planes that meet requirements for flying overwater, such as carrying rafts (and American isn’t even putting rafts in all of its narrowbodies in order to eliminate subfleets). And suggesting it is a mere subfleet rather than a distinct plane is consistent with… minimizing the fact that passengers are flying on the 737 MAX.

I generally believe that the plane is quite safe and passengers will get over any concerns about flying on it however I’m not sure removing markers for passengers that they’re flying the mask is the best way of getting there.

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, 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. Outrage! Sturm und Drang! Drama!

    Meanwhile AA’s webpage clearly identifies 737 MAX as the operating aircraft type when booking a flight.

    Seems to me finding out that your aircraft is a MAX after you’ve boarded, put your bags away, and reached your seat to read the safety card is rather too late to make a decision to avoid booking a flight because it’s the MAX.

    If AA wants to hide that a flight is going to operated by a MAX, making that info clearly available in the booking process, but thinking that the safety card is the place to conceal it is an odd way to go about it…

  2. @Bob — I agree with you. If this was actually done to reduce pax anxiety, it was a good idea. The time to tell people it’s a Max is obviously BEFORE they board the plane. At that point, they’re better off not thinking about it.

  3. If the interior safety equipment is the same, then it doesn’t matter what engines and associated systems are on the aircraft. The safety card is about emergency procedures and equipment inside the cabin.

    There is a difference between the newest A321NEOs and earlier 321s due to door/emergency exit configurations so they presumably must have different safety cards.

    I distinctly remember being on a flight on one airline when the FA advised that the seat cushions on that particular aircraft could *NOT* be used for flotation as the seatback card and the video for that aircraft said.

  4. American’s explanation about standardizing 737 and A321 safety cards across all models doesn’t hold water because there are different safety cards for the A321NX and A321 as of the flights I took last week and this week.

  5. AA just wants the safety information card to be more inclusive – plus, having it cover all types of aircraft (as opposed to only featuring one specific jet) certainly makes the card more diverse. Good for AA!

  6. @William
    You are an idiot, do you know the definition of ‘diverse’? Having one card makes it more diverse?
    The very point of a safety card is to be specific. Saying generally “find some way to get out” is idiotic and luckily even the FAA would not stand for it

  7. @john – with all the 737s now standardized at 172 seats, American’s explanation sort of makes sense from a cost-cutting perspective… but southwest created different safety cards to more clearly communicate with customers, so the best thing you could say about American’s move here is that once again “passionately driving efficiencies” (in parker’s words) > customers.

  8. @james – it is in diversity that we find our strength. Better to be inclusive of all 737s in an equitable manner than to single out individual 737s, especially ones like the MAX that may face systemic hostility and intolerance. I applaud AA for modeling unity here.

  9. @Gary, You have more faith in AA’s explanation than I do. AA’s cost-saving explanation seems to be a clear pretext for refusing to identify the 737 MAX and has nothing to do with saving costs or fleet harmonization. First, surely AA already ordered 737 MAX safety cards for its entire fleet. Those paid for cards must be scrapped now as well as all of the existing cards for the 737-800 fleet. If cost cutting was the goal, AA should have thought of that before ordering different cards for the 800s and the MAX.

    Second, there are no cost savings. A safety card with 737 MAX on it doesn’t cost more than a safety card that just says 737. AA has ordered only 100 MAX with 24 delivered. Fooling with the safety card is not exactly fertile ground for meaningful cost savings, if there are any. I mean come on, cost savings from standardizing safety cards is a joke, right? It probably cost the AA bureaucracy more to come up with and implement this brilliant idea.

    Third, if the safety card standardization was part of a “harmonization plan” implemented several years ago, then no safety cards would have been produced with the MAX designation and no changes would be required now.

    There have been many lies told in the saga of the certification and recertification of the MAX. Now AA corporate communications is even lying about the safety cards. AA is hiding the MAX from passengers.

  10. Before boarding, look out the window at the gate. Look at the airplane’s engines. If the rear of the cowling has scalloped edges, it is a 737 MAX.

  11. Oh stop, no one carried after about February that they were on a MAX or not. Also, AA has the same seating on the MAX and -800 so they use the same safety card now.

    I really want to know why you hate AA so much. I could start a BLOG and go off on DL or SW. Just report actual travel news, that’s what people really want to read.

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