Following Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, passengers all over the world are concerned that the Boeing 737 MAX-8 may not be safe. The reasons behind the Ethiopian Airlines crash of the new Boeing jet are still unknown, but the crash left no survivors, and this tragedy is the second loss of a Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft in five months. Until a full review of data from plane’s black boxes is completed, the similarities between the two crashes are simply too great to ignore.
Why? For the time being, we do not know why these planes are falling out of the sky. Following the Lion Air crash of a Boeing 737 MAX-8 in October 2018, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive, which provides a detailed checklist of steps to take when a flight crew experiences a “runaway stabilizer” event, like that experienced by the Lion Air pilots.
In both crashes, the pilots reportedly made requests to return to the airport within minutes of takeoff. Initial reports from the brief flight of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 indicate the aircraft was having difficulty in its initial climb, as it appeared to rise, dip, and then sharply rise in altitude before falling from the sky.
Whether Sunday’s crash was caused by a failure of the plane, the flight crew or some other yet unknown factor, passengers need reassurance that this will not happen again. Travelers are nervous about boarding the 737 MAX-8, and until we have conclusive answers about what caused this latest crash, I would not feel comfortable getting on this airplane model.
Who operates the Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft?
For starters, it’s important to note that while there are about 350 of these aircraft flying around the globe, only certain airlines operate these planes. There are approximately 350 Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft in operation worldwide, being flown by 54 operators, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Travelers can check the full list of airlines that fly the plane on the Boeing website.
Several nations and airlines have grounded these planes, including China, Singapore, Indonesia (home of Lion Air), and Ethiopian Airlines itself. Notably, however, U.S. carriers like American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines have decided not to ground these planes.
Perhaps not surprisingly, U.S. airlines have shown the most resistance to expressing public doubt about the safety of the Boeing product. Southwest and American Airlines, the biggest U.S. operators of the Boeing 737 MAX-8, say they have continued confidence in the safety of the Boeing jet. In a Twitter post, Southwest cited statistics: it has safely flown more than 31,000 flights on this airplane model, and will continue to do so in the future.
We remain confident in the Safety of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft. Southwest has operated approximately 31,000 flights utilizing the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and we plan on operating those aircraft going forward. -Dillon
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) March 11, 2019
But for those passengers with increased anxiety over the latest crash, Southwest and American have done little to allay fears, telling passengers on Twitter that they will not allow ticket changes out of concerns for safety. One passenger even called it a “customer service failure.”
.@AmericanAir I called & was told waivers are not available as I have a non-refundable fare as do the majority of passengers. This is NOT ACCEPTABLE esp. when some airlines are grounding the 737 Max 8 due to safety concerns. This is a American Airlines customer service failure. https://t.co/ifMmPpJHdp
— Sandy (@nycsandygirl) March 11, 2019
For its part, United Airlines flies the Boeing 737 MAX-9, and told passengers it sympathizes with its customers’ concerns, promising to do what it could to find “alternative travel arrangements” for passengers wishing to make changes.
Your safety is our first priority. We completely understand. We don’t fly 737 Max 8 but we fly 737 Max 9. There are 14 in our fleet. If you prefer not to fly on one we completely understand and will do what is best in our capabilities to find alternative travel arrangements. ^DP
— United Airlines (@united) March 11, 2019
In the meantime, if you are flying in the coming days, contact your airline, make your concerns known, and request alternative flight arrangements. If your travel plans are too far out, however, the airline may not know which aircraft is assigned to a particular flight until the day before departure.
Fortunately, the U.S. NTSB is on its way to investigate the crash, and their specialists will be able to download and analyze the data from the last 25 flight hours of the crashed plane. This will be extremely valuable information, and will help both airlines who operate these planes – as well as their passengers – determine what steps to take next.
Here’s a list of the airlines still flying the aircraft:
- American Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Norwegian Airlines
- TUI (airline has recently suspended flights)
- Silk Air (airline has recently suspended flights)
- Fiji Airways
- GOL Linhas Aéreas