Boeing announced the sale today of two 737 MAX aircraft. That’s a big deal because the MAX, in service only since fall 2018, has been grounded since March 2019 – and because airlines generally are conserving cash rather than spending money to buy planes.
However the biggest piece of news in Enter Air’s aircraft order is that Boeing no longer calls the planes MAX. Instead they’re calling it the 737-8, not to be (or to be) confused with the older 737-800.
Enter Air is a Polish charter airline, based out of Warsaw with 22 Boeing 737-800s and 2 Boeing 737 MAX 8s. They have more MAXs on order, and they’ve ordered two more. But that’s not how they’re describing the plane that’s been ordered. Instead they planes are just described as 737-8s.
Enter Air today announced the Polish airline is expanding its commitment to the 737 family with a new order for two 737-8 airplanes plus options for two more jets.
With this deal then Enter Air will operate both 737-800s and 737-8s. Boeing weasels their way around this, explaining 737-8s are the same planes as MAX 8s the airline already has in service, “When the new purchase agreement is fully exercised, Enter Air’s 737 MAX fleet will rise to 10 aircraft.”
The airline’s general director also calls the planes 737-8s, while emphasizing his confidence in the MAX.
Despite the current crisis, it is important to think about the future. To that end, we have agreed to order additional 737-8 aircraft. Following the rigorous checks that the 737 MAX is undergoing, I am convinced it will be the best aircraft in the world for many years to come
Boeing’s Senior Vice President Commercial Sales and Marketing plays fast and loose with the names, too, suggesting Enter Air’s “order for additional 737-8s underscores their confidence in the” MAX. Say what?
American Airlines, a major operator of the MAX, has said rebranding makes no sense. As American’s President Robert Isom explained it in December, there will be “no rebranding this aircraft” instead “the most important thing to restoring any kind of confidence is to simply get the aircraft back flying.” The
737 MAX ‘new’ 737-8 could fly again by December.
Last April President Trump suggested rebranding the plane. When the President of the United States, himself a successful promoter whose primary asset is his brand, gives free marketing advice it’s actually worth listening to, even if he’s just cribbing it straight from Stringer Bell in The Wire.
Regulators are inherently conservative and they aren’t going to sign off on a return to the skies unless they’re really sure of the fixes – it’s bad enough that an aviation disaster occurs, it’s even worse for a bureaucrat if it should happen again after they’ve explicitly examined and signed off on the strategy to avoid the incident. Other aircraft have had troubling starts and gone on to have long and successful careers.
Would a new name help? There’s no question it was crucial to making AirTran née ValuJet a success. In this case though there just seems too much sleight of hand, like Boeing is trying to pull a fast one, and I think appearing to run from the MAX undermines confidence in the plane just as it’s getting ready to be re-certified for flight by the FAA.