The Boeing 737 Max was meant to become the new workhorse of the commercial aviation history, but instead its name and the manufacturer have become embroiled in one of the worst flight safety controversies in decades. Between October 29th crash in Indonesia and the March 10th crash in Ethiopia, 346 individuals have lost their lives due to issues with this aircraft type. The ripples of those issues have now begun to impact the entire aviation industry.
American Airlines has begun to cancel at least 90 flights every single day due to concerns with the 737 Max. Since March 13th, Southwest Airlines has already cancelled 2800 flights with schedule disruptions expected to last well into May. United’s 737 Max aircraftare grounded as well but they’ve so far managed to continue operations using spare planes and strategic rebooking to minimize cancellations. United had only 14 of that aircraft type in its fleet while Southwest had 34 and American 24.
Although flight crews and industry observers called for something to be done about the 737 Max previously, it took an executive order from Donald Trump on March 13th to ground the entire US fleet of 737 Max aircraft. Shortly afterward, the FAA announced its own order for the grounding of those aircraft. Although these actions only impact the US fleet, other countries around the world have taken similar actions to keep these planes grounded until thorough checks and fixes can be completed to avert another aircraft tragedy.
Boeing, for its part, has been supportive of the groundings occurring around the world, although its longstanding pristine reputation has taken an enormous beating with some airlines demanding reimbursement from the giant aircraft manufacturer due to enormous business disruptions. In addition to the two crashes, multiple other flights have experienced momentary issues such as noses pitching down unexpectedly and warning systems deploying.
This massive disruption within the global airline system has cost airlines millions and negatively impacted tens of thousands of airline passengers daily. While some travelers have had to resort to cancelled vacations and missed work events, others have rebooked with carriers who do not currently use this aircraft type or through private aircraft organizations offering shared flights on similar routes. Airlines have offered full refunds for all impacted travelers but those may take upwards of a week to receive. This leaves stranded travelers out-of-pocket in making other arrangements, often at higher costs due to short booking times, before receiving their refund. With no end date in sight, the airline industry may experience its rockiest first and second quarter in a decade.