American Airlines plans to convince passengers that the 737 Max is safe to fly. So it’s considering tours and giving potential customers the chance to ask questions of the airline’s pilots and mechanics.
The plans, which have not yet been finalized, were disclosed to airline employees in a call with executives last week, according to American spokesman Curtis Blessing. The plans were first reported by CNBC.
The 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 following two crashes that killed 346 people. The Federal Aviation Administration and other airline regulators around the world are taking the final steps that could approve the plane to carry passengers again, including test flights. Airlines believe regulators could clear the plane for flight as soon as November.
American executives said that it is important to have let customers who are concerned about the jet have their questions answered by pilots or mechanics.
“They’re the ones that … really have the credibility to explain the Max,” said Alison Taylor, American’s chief customer officer, in the employee town hall last week.
Passengers will know that their flight is on a 737 Max in advance, and American will not automatically move passengers onto Max flights if their existing flights (on different planes) are canceled.
American has scheduled one daily round-trip flight between New York’s LaGuardia airport and Miami between December 29 through January 4. It started selling tickets for those flights on October 24.
Air Canada has scheduled flights with the Max starting December 28 between three Canadian airports – Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal – and four US airports – Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Palm Springs, California.
By comparison, Southwest (LUV), which has 34 of the 737 Max jets (more than any other carrier), isn’t planning to have its 737 Max planes carry passengers until at least the second quarter of next year, the airline confirmed Monday.
“We have maintenance work to do to bring our own Max aircraft out of long-term storage and into an operational status, and we’ll be doing operational readiness and validation flights on the aircraft before they return to revenue service,” said Southwest CEO Gary Kelly in comments to analysts last week.
With the sharp drop in demand for air travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, every airline has planes parked and not in use. That greatly limits the need to bring back the Max planes quickly.
Nearly 1,400 earlier versions of the 737 are parked worldwide, not including the 375 737 Max planes in service at the time of the grounding, according to Cirium Fleets, which tracks plane usage. That represents nearly 20% of the earlier versions of the 737 still grounded.
But Kelly said that Southwest, which has 100 planes parked including its 737 Max jets, is eager to replace the older 737-700 with the 737 Max as soon as it can.
“It is our most cost-effective aircraft. It is our most reliable aircraft. It is our most environmentally friendly aircraft, and it’s our most comfortable aircraft,” he said. “So we really look forward to flying it again.”