United Airlines Won’t Rely on the FAA Alone to Say the Boeing 737 MAX is Safe

I’m here at United Airlines Media Day in Chicago and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said that relying on commitments from Boeing and the FAA that the 737 MAX is “is not going to be enough.”

After noting that FAA re-certification is required he said “we’ll wait to see how the other ones go as well.”

That’s the first time I’ve heard a US airline chief suggest U.S. regulatory approval is insufficient to fly the MAX. It’s certainly the case that the FAA has been working to get other world regulators to go along with approval at the same time, although at this point it looks as though they won’t get all regulators to allow the 737 MAX back into the air simultaneously.

United is planning its own efforts around relaunch of the MAX, and plans to give customers flexibility to rebook to avoid the plane. Other airlines have told me they have similar plans to ensure customers aren’t being surprised to find themselves on the plane.

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. […] While stories about the causes behind problems with the 737 MAX continue to come out, airlines are also preparing for when the airplane is cleared to fly again. Remember when the only thing to worry about with the 737 MAX was how small the bathrooms were? While most airlines have been overly optimistic about the return, only pushing out the timeline a month or two at a time, Gary from View from the Wing writes about comments from United’s CEO Oscar Munoz saying how United will be looking to more agencies than just the FAA before flying the plane again. […]

Comments

  1. The FAA is in bed with Boeing and both will just sweep this mess under the rug to no one will get prosecuted. Both completely untrustworthy, to say the least! Also, the FAA has now lost there trust in other countries and they will be slower to adopt any FAA approvals.

    Therefore, United is doing the right thing and other airlines in the US should do as well.

    Personally, it is pathetic to keep on hearing how the MAX is going to get approved to fly again. There is a design flaw and they expect the software to pick up those flaws. Boeing needs to scrap the plane and start over, but we keep hearing how the FAA is going to approve the plane. Remember, money first!

    And no, I am not getting on that plane! Screw the airlines that fly it!

    BTW – Delta is kicking everyone’s A$$ by going with Airbus!

    A perspective from a software engineer.

  2. I won’t be surprised to be on the Max as I will effort quite strenuously to avoid it at any cost. However I do appreciate them giving passengers alternatives

  3. Ok I realize travelers avoid certain aircraft for comfort reasons, etc. But if an airline expects customers will avoid an aircraft on safety reasons and have ways to accommodate the choice, then what is the point of having the plane in the fleet?

  4. JB in San Diego “in bed” is a stretch don’t you think? While I am not defending either Boeing nor the FAA both of which in a former life I have had issues with never the less there is more to the issue than cronyism it’s our world or rushing to beat the “other guy” and it’s not just airplanes. As far as what UA and others will do that is being dictated by lawyers in the effort to reduce their potential liability should something happen in the future. Maybe what we should do is ban Boeing airplanes and fly AirBus don’t you think? That is until they have an issue and we all will be running back to BA. If I climb into a cockpit then I am ready to go, if pilots chose not to fly the Max then I would be worried so until they the pilots make that decision let’s go flying

  5. @ghostrider5408
    Absolutely, not, ‘in bed’ is not a stretch and yes, it is your life dude. Fly on the MAX.

  6. I think it’s reasonable and appropriate for United not to consider recommendations from the government of the United States to be credible. Our country is so deeply, horribly broken. It’s like the waning days of the Soviet Union.

  7. While I agree this is the right things to do on its own, I wonder if there are other business reasons for doing so anyway.

    I’m thinking code shares. Would Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, Brussels and SAS be allowed to market code shares operated by the MAX without EASA certification? Same for AC, NH, CA, OZ, CA, etc and their regulators. If that’s the case then UA is going to be restricted on where it can fly the MAX, aka on flights that don’t feed long haul.

  8. Regarding the article ‘How Will Airlines Handle the Return of Boeing’s 737 Max 8?’ – AdWeek and the following quote:
    “There’s no cure for a controversy like this better than the planes being in the sky,” he said. “It won’t vanish as much as it will recede.”
    My prediction is once the MAX 8 flies 2 months (likely less) incident free, no one will remember or care about the MAX 8 issues. Most react only to the latest news that pops up on their cell phone.
    60% of the traveling public don’t even know what makes a plane fly and 95% of them don’t know the model number or manufacturer of the type of AC they are flying on.
    Those of us who read this blog are the only people who will follow this issue after the planes are flying again (and maybe a few Boeing/Airbus stockholders).

  9. I think the 737 Max 8 will be safe (more or less) to fly when it returns to service. After all, it was test flown in numerous commercial flights with multiple test passengers (read guinea pigs), when it was flying. 346 of the guinea pigs gave their lives finding the biggest problem with the 737 Max 8. Now the design of the plane has gone through a complete inspection. Pilots have been trained to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the 737 Max 8.

    However, articles in June 2019 (google it) have indicated that Boeing has been pressuring the FAA to replace actual physical tests with computer simulation tests on their next generation 777 jets (while the 737 Max 8 problem was going on!). I personally do not believe that management has learned its lesson. I personally will avoid the next generation 777 jets until the human guinea pigs have flown it for a while and problems are found the hard way.

    Really, management needs to go. In the 787, they outsourced the development of many parts. That is why they initially had trouble getting the parts to fit together. While developing the 737 Max 8, they fired well paid USA senior engineers with experience in airplane manufacturer and outsourced their functions to cheaper engineers in India. Who knows where most of the parts that go into the 737 Max come from. I have looked and could not find the information. I am guessing most of Boeing’s airplane parts are manufactured in China or India or Mexico to lower cost. Assembly is in the USA. It makes me wonder about the quality of the new planes rolling off of Boeing USA assembly line.

    If management is not changed and the Boeing’s safety/engineer culture renewed, we will see more problems like the 737 Max 8. There are some who are likely to argue with me on this. To them, I would like to say, I hope I am wrong and they are right. Nobody wants to see a repeat of the 737 Max 8 mess.

  10. @JB SAN Diego
    “In bed” is the ultra polite way to put it. The use of vulgar terms. to describe the level of intimacy would be fully justified.

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