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United’s Plans to Reassure Customers Over Safety of 737MAX Remain “Unrefined”

United’s Plans to Reassure Customers Over Safety of 737MAX Remain “Unrefined”

The union that represents United Airlines flight attendants has claimed that efforts by the airline to reassure passengers the Boeing 737MAX is safe to fly “remain unrefined”. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved safety fixes for the troubled airliner, allowing it to fly again after being grounded for 20 months following two fatal crashes.

While some aviation analysts believe the 737MAX could be the safest plane ever to take to the sky following intense scrutiny from regulators from around the world, it might remain an uphill battle to convince passengers that the plane isn’t a death trap.

United said it planned to press its fleet of MAX’s back into service at some point during the first quarter of 2021, although the airline has declined to set a date. A spokesperson for the Chicago-based airline said getting each airline ready to fly again would require 1,000 man-hours of work including crucial software updates and pilot training.

American Airlines has taken a more aggressive approach to returning its MAX fleet to service, with plans to run non-commercial flights from early December and scheduling the first passenger revenue flight on the recertified 737MAX on December 29.

Initially, American will operate just two flights per day between Miami and La Guardia but plans to increase the number of MAX flights from its Miami hub through January 2021.

Crucially, American has admitted that it needs to restore passenger confidence in the safety of the MAX. “If a customer doesn’t want to fly on the 737 MAX, they won’t have to,” American’s chief operating officer David Seymour told employees last week. “Our customers will be able to easily identify whether they are traveling on one even if schedules change. If a customer prefers to not fly on this aircraft, we’ll provide flexibility to ensure they can be easily re-accommodated,” the memo continued.

That’s the same approach Southwest Airlines has publicly adopted even though the airline has no plans to get it’s MAX fleet back in the air until the second quarter of 2021. Along with an online resource center detailing what steps have been taken to make sure the plane is safe to fly, Southwest will give customers the opportunity to rebook their flight for free should they find themselves on a MAX.

Unlike American, however, Southwest won’t be stationing its MAX fleet at a specific base or flying it on pre-published routes. That could cause headaches with last-minute schedule changes and the airline says it won’t be making announcements at the gate to advertise the fact customers are booked on a MAX flight.

Alaska Airlines plans to take delivery of its first 737 MAX 9 aircraft early next year and will begin commercial operations from March 2021. For the first few months, the plane will operate four routes between Seattle-Los Angeles, Seattle-San Diego, Portland-Las Vegas and Portland-Los Angeles.

United Airlines, meanwhile, says it will share more details about the return of the MAX “soon”. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) which represents flight attendants at the carrier is eagerly awaiting more details.

“How United plans to assure the public the plane is safe to fly as well as procedures for rebooking remain unrefined,” the union told its members in a recent memo.

“Likewise, as United moves forward, we will be looking to their communications to reassure Flight Attendants of the safety of the aircraft and plans to address our concerns as they come up,” the memo continued.

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