MAX May Be Grounded, But Boeing Selling Its Safety


With hundreds of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft parked and the production pipeline shut down, Boeing is busy trying to sell airlines on its inherent safety and offering ways to entice passengers to fly it. But it may be an uphill battle in the wake of a survey that revealed 40 percent of frequent fliers don’t want to fly the MAX.

Even as Boeing’s embattled CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, was shown the door this week, The New York Times reports that the company has been buttonholing airlines with carefully prepped PR and checklists on how they might reassure passengers. The Times reported that Boeing held a series of 30-minute conference calls last week to convince customers that the MAX will be a safe aircraft when it reenters service. However, no date for that reentry is on the horizon.

“We routinely engage with our airline customers’ communications teams to seek their feedback and brief them on our latest plans,” Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman, told the paper on Monday.

“Each airline is different in their needs, so we provide a wide range of documents and assistance that they can choose to use or tailor as they see fit,” he added.

These materials include infographics, a video and a checklist-style document on how gate agents and flight attendants might respond to allay passenger concerns. In extreme cases, they’re advised to handle the situation much as they would an inflight medical emergency. According to Boeing’s own surveys, the 40 percent of passengers unwilling to fly the MAX has remained unchanged since May of this year.

Boeing is also pushing back on the idea that the aircraft was defective because it was developed under intense deadline pressure and competition with Airbus, which already had a new version of the A320 headed to market. Boeing enlisted the aid of airline pilots and its own in-house pilots to sell the airplane’s enhanced safety features.

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  1. Passengers grouse about airplanes. They grouse about seat width and pitch. They grouse about deficiencies of cabin storage space. They grouse about flight attendants. After a satisfying ( ? ) grouse-fest, they buy the cheapest available fares. Apparently, THAT’s all that they REALLY want.

  2. Back in the old days, the FAA used a regulatory system that created an Airworthiness Directive (A.D.)(FAA FAR Part 39). When a malfunction or defect was discovered either from an accident or discovery the FAA would put out one of these things we call an A.D. The details were published and manufacturers and after market businesses alike would create solution(s) to the malfunction or defect. The fix would be ‘detailed’ and left to the ‘Aircraft Owner/Operator’ to decide their next step.

    The new system: The plane malfunctions twice – President grounds it – Congress talks about who to blame – FAA talks about $afety Fir$t and everybody gets fired. Regulations, even laws, are obviously not applicable anymore.
    Now we all become experts from surveys, media reports and endless blogs. You got to love it, so much more “Drama” then the good old days when we just fixed it and moved on.

    • Sloppy processes killed innocent human beings, PAX. The MAX woes are much into a fact-finding process or “Discovery Process”. Boeing counteracts with a much invigorated tap dance. A sad attempt to save face. The bonfire on Boeing’s ass has been sparked. Sincerely and sadly, my guess is that the MAX will not overcome the aftermath.

  3. Meanwhile…………back at McDonnell Douglas or Boeing in 90’s or 70’s or Airbus in 90’s…….

    It is amusing to listen to people talk about how Boeing won’t recover, that Boeing this or that, that passengers don’t care. THEY DON’T. As HISTORY shows, within a few months of the Max return most passengers will blindly get on it. As they did the DC10, the 737 in the 90’s and every other “new” airplane that was introduced and had problems. Just like they get on airlines that have problems and crashes.

    There will be a small %, maybe .001% passengers who care, the rest won’t, and 1 year after the Max returns will be non-issue and will move, always has, always does, always will. Welcome to aviation, new technology, etc.

    • Sal, the MCAS event may be a little different this time round. Way back when we didn’t have minute by minute twenty four hour, eight days a week news coverage that we have today. I’m sure the media will be up front and center to remind us of MAX’s history on a regular basis. The news media does not like big companies like Boeing that kill people.
      That being said, remember Enron and WorldCom of the early 2,000’s? Management gave investors what they wanted in a big way. Profit, big profit and quickly until the whole house of cards came tumbling down. At the time, they were just a tip of the iceberg. A whole lot of other companies followed Enron and WorldCom down the same path of destruction leaving a lot of people a whole lot poorer while a select few elite’s got really rich. Sound familiar? Company culture, morality, ethics, character, for the most part, all have been in decline for the better part of thirty years.

  4. And…always remember the two crew members up in the cockpit are the first to arrive at the scene of the accident. If they thought it would kill them, they aren’t going to be flying it. If or when they’re satisfied, I’ll be satisfied sitting in back. A couple of B737 MAX guys I know said that after knowing what the fault and corrective action was, they would not have had an issue flying it all this time while it was being corrected.

  5. And there is another factor we all need to consider. The MAX issues have reached down to the little guys:
    From a post on an experimental builders blog (but an issue we are all dealing with right now):

    “I am an insurance agent and aviation rates have gone up substantially because of losses, especially the Boeing losses, is what underwriters have been telling me.”

    Note: I am not an insurance agent.

    Barb F.

  6. I look forward to the day the Max goes back into service. The first time I flew on it on a SouthWest flight I was impressed, it’s the best 737 ever. Now marketing it as just another 737 was a mistake but there is nothing wrong with the aircraft that revamping the MCAS and type specific training can’t easily overcome. The accidents were unfortunate and entirely avoidable.

  7. In the final analysis, Boeing is not to big to fail, in essence they already have. However, Boeing is to big to not get bailed out. My crystal ball sees another GM deal coming down the pike. It’s all your fault Mr. and Mrs. taxpayer. Now you’re going to have to bail Boeing’s sorry ass out.

  8. 40% remember the tragedy. “ In October 2018, a brand-new Max operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed into the sea near Jakarta. Five months later, in March, an Ethiopian Airlines Max went down shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. All 346 people aboard the two planes were killed.”

  9. And THEN … there’s the LATEST … AD 2019-25-17 against the B737 NG. Apparently, aircraft with a specific software load are not approved to land at one of seven runways WORLD WIDE ! It’s been discovered that if you’re trying to program the autopilot to fly a true heading of 270 degrees to those specific runways, all six of the display units go blank until you select something else (SIC). Four runways are in the CONUS, one in Alaska and two in Africa. Wonderful !! I wonder what software genius caused THAT faux pas?