American Airways is planning buyer excursions with Boeing 737 Max and pilot calls to extend confidence in jets


American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX jets are parked at a facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA on May 10, 2019.

American Airlines / Handout

American Airlines is planning customer tours with the Boeing 737 Max and is calling with its pilots in the coming weeks to increase public confidence in the aircraft after two fatal crashes.

The jets ceased worldwide more than a year and a half ago after the two crashes – Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019. All 346 people on board the flights were killed.

After repeated setbacks, the Federal Aviation Administration is at the end of its recertification process for the jets, despite not officially deregistering the planes.

"The FAA continues to follow a thorough process, not a prescribed schedule, to get the aircraft back into service," said a statement.

Boeing made some changes to the aircraft's software, including a flight control system that pilots battled on both crashes, making them less aggressive.

"We're seeing the finish line approaching and I think it's a real finish line," American Airlines chief operating officer David Seymour told staff at a town hall meeting last week that was reviewed by CNBC.

The Fort Worth-based airline plans to launch flights with employees after Thanksgiving. It is estimated that the FAA will lift the flight ban in mid-November, Seymour said. An American Airlines spokesman said the company's plans are tentative based on the FAA's decision.

American announced last week that the first 737 Max flights since the jet took off are scheduled for some flights between New York's LaGuardia Airport and its Miami hub from December 29 through January 4.

American plans to offer some customers the opportunity to see the aircraft in person at airports including Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport, LaGuardia, and Miami after Thanksgiving, with the participation of pilots and mechanics. Pilots can also answer customer questions via phone calls and video messages, the company said.

"They are the ones who … really have the credibility to explain the Max," said Alison Taylor, American chief customer officer, at the employees' town hall.

Customers who have booked on the 737 Max will receive notifications and be able to switch to another flight if they are not comfortable, Taylor said.

The union that represents American pilots warned against encouraging the return of the jets.

"There are 346 reasons to be respectful and not run a PR campaign," said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association and captain of the Boeing 737. "When the Max is repaired, fully checked, and we're well trained, it's time to just fly the jet. "

American Boeing 737 pilots can sign up for December training courses, which include virtual training expected to last around an hour and 40 minutes in a flight simulator, the union told its members last week.

The plane landing plunged Boeing into its greatest crisis of all time, which was later exacerbated by the toll on air traffic from the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. airlines alone lost more than $ 10 billion in the third quarter, and airlines around the world canceled hundreds of 737 Max planes. American, which had 24,737 Max aircraft in its fleet at the time of landing in March 2019, will move orders from 18 more to 2024.

Andrew Nocella, United Airlines' chief commercial officer, said in an earnings call earlier this month that the airline will return the planes to its schedule, "probably sometime next year based on the schedule we hear from the FAA and Boeing. "

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, told CNBC last week that the airline has not planned any new Max flights as it has not yet been cleared for the flight. However, Kelly estimated it could return in the second quarter of 2021.

Boeing is expected to release its third quarter results before the market opens on Wednesday. It details the financial impact of Covid-19 on aircraft demand and the latest steps to resume the Max flight.


Steven Gregory