American Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to fly the Boeing 737 MAX again yesterday, after the aircraft’s ungrounding.
Huge mistakes were made engineering this plane. So that it would fly like older 737 ‘Next Generation’ aircraft even with engines moved, Boeing added software that they didn’t fully brief airlines on. That software was triggered based on a single point of failure, while the plane has two angle of attack sensors it only used data from one at a time. Planes are built now to more or less fly themselves, this one couldn’t do that properly when a sensor failed. The results were tragic.
These errors have been corrected, and no plane has gone through more scrutiny in history. I believe it is now safe to fly. Many people disagree with me, and aren’t comfortable flying the MAX yet.
As American Airlines brings the MAX back into its schedule, they’re replacing flights that were scheduled to be operated by older 737s. You may find that a flight you booked is now going to be flown by a MAX. If you don’t want to fly the aircraft, here’s American’s polcy.
- Currently everywhere American flies with a MAX they also fly with other aircraft. So they can switch you to another aircraft and still get you to your destination.
- That will eventually change. If your destination becomes served only with a MAX, or only MAX flights are available, they’ll offer to fly you to another destination within 300 miles.
- And if that’s not possible, they’ll offer you a travel credit for the value of your ticket.
Of course you can get a travel credit for the value of your ticket when you cancel anyway. American has waived change fees due to the pandemic, and going forward most non-Basic Economy tickets no longer have change fees either.
The additional benefit here beyond ‘no change fees’ if your flight changes to a MAX aircraft is:
- Next available flight in the same cabin with no extra charge, not just no change fee but no difference in fare.
- Change of destination within 300 miles when there is no alternate non-MAX itinerary available.
American will help you change your flight, and won’t pressure you to fly the MAX. However that doesn’t mean you won’t be inconvenienced.
At some point MAX aircraft will replace a Boeing 737-800 on the day of departure. You’ll already be at the airport. The airline is only operating half its schedule of a year ago for the next couple of months, which means there aren’t as many options for getting where you’re going. And while occasionally it’s nice to be able to change your destination, for most that’ll mean renting a car (at your own cost and time).
Eventually you’ll fly the MAX again, even if you say you won’t. Remember all the people who swore they’d never fly United again after David Dao was dragged off a regional jet?
About 5000 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have been ordered. American, United, Southwest, Alaska Airlines and Air Canada all have MAX aircraft in their fleet or on order. United will bring it back in February, Soutuwest in the spring. This plane is going to become ubiquitous in aviation – and eventually tough to avoid without great cost.