The Three Reasons I’m Relieved I Was Avoiding Flights On The 737 MAX

Ever since the 737 MAX started flying in the US on October 1, 2017, I’d never flown on one. I had plenty of chances to do so but when booking flights, I actively avoided flying on one if I could. This wasn’t some sort of innate sense of concern about the plane’s safety; instead, I didn’t fly on one because the in-flight experience was worse than what was available on other planes flying the same routes.

Looking to the immediate and long term future, there are other reasons I’m relieved I didn’t book our flights on the 737 MAX.

Reason One: The Obvious

Knowing what we do about the 737 MAX, I’d have to say I’m glad I stayed away from the plane for totally unrelated reasons. Even if I had flown on one, at the time, I would have had no doubts that it was just as safe as any other plane in the sky, which is a questionable statement in hindsight.

Reason Two: The Practical

Southwest is the U.S. airline that had the largest number of 737 MAX planes in service – thirty-seven at the time of the grounding of the aircraft. Many of those planes were operating routes from our home airport of Orlando, including flights to Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and New Orleans. When I booked us flights to New Orleans, I made sure we were flying on a 737-700 or an older 737-800. I mean there was always a chance there would be an equipment swap but there wasn’t anything I could do if that happened.

American Airlines also has a number of 737 MAX aircraft and one of the routes the plane flew was from MIA-MCO. That’s essentially the route we’d need to take on American if we were ever looking to fly anywhere from Orlando, besides one of American’s other hub cities.

Screen Shot 2019-04-17 at 4.19.25 PM
Photo from LaGuardia Terminal B Twitter

Since I’m not good at spontaneous travel, most of our summer travel plans are already either finalized or on the way to being set. The first thing I try to lock down is the plane reservations and we have flights on both American and Southwest planned.

Southwest has already announced that they are canceling all 737 MAX through August 5, 2019, and American has canceled all flights through August 19, 2019.  Now, just because you’re not on one of the canceled flights doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. American is adjusting flight schedules and gives this guidance on their website:

Question: My flight was previously scheduled on a MAX. Will it be canceled?
Answer: Not all flights that were previously scheduled on a MAX will be canceled, as we plan to substitute other aircraft types. In total, approximately 115 flights will be canceled per day.

Question: My flight wasn’t scheduled to be on a MAX. Why has it been canceled? 
Answer: A flight that was not scheduled as a MAX flight might be canceled to enable our team to cover a MAX route with a different aircraft. Our goal is to minimize the impact to the smallest number of customers.

Reason Three: The Financial

I’d imagine the grounding of the 737 MAX might eventually have an impact on airfares. Southwest says the 737 MAX flights only consist of 5 percent of their operation, but flights are still leaving almost full and demand remains strong. I took enough economics in college to know that when demand is constant and supply decreases, the one thing that goes up is price.

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Of course, airlines will never say that prices will rise because of the grounding of the 737 MAX but it’s the logical outcome the longer the plane is grounded and airlines are better able to adjust scheduling and pricing given the lower number of airplanes available to fly.

I’m glad I was able to lock in our summer trips at the current pricing levels and that our flights weren’t canceled. If they were, I would have to rebook us onto other flights now and who knows what that would have cost.

Final Thoughts

The entire 737 MAX story is somewhat unbelievable to me. While the center of the story will always be the two tragic crashes, the backstory and the future repercussions will be with us for a long time. For me, my reasons for not flying on a 737 MAX before the problems were solely cosmetic. I preferred to fly on a different type of aircraft and there were so few of them in service that it wasn’t hard to avoid flying on one.

When the 737 MAX is cleared to resume flights, I’m not sure how I will feel about flying on one. While everyone involved will spout that safety is the only priority, there are obviously financial pressures at work on both Boeing and the airline carriers worldwide. Hearing that the fix will be to update the computer software makes me less comfortable than if it was just a mechanical problem. If something mechanical is broken, you fix or redesign it. If the software is acting wrong, who knows what will happen when you try to correct it?

Whatever the outcome, I can’t see myself booking a ticket on the first 737 MAX to come back into service. What about you?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Three Reasons I’m Relieved I Was Avoiding Flights On The 737 MAX”

  1. The MAX program, when you read the history of it, was not Boeing’s first choice. But it was a reactionary choice to Airbus’ NEO. And for Boeing MAX was done for the minimum. The piper though has been paid twice over. I never trusted what Boeing did to create a 10th version of the 737 with much bigger engines. The fundamental issue with the MAX is that its ‘new ‘ design is unstable aerodynamically, ergo the software MCAS. Airbus’ NEO has no such issue as the newer 320/1/ and 330 air frames could readily handle bigger engines. A software ‘fix’ is not a fix for an unfixable aircraft. Period. That said, look for the usual corruption and cheerleaders at the FAA/NTSB green light this flying coffin by May. I won’t be on board.

    1. Thank you for intelligently describing my rather amateur reasoning for not wanting to get back on the MAX when it is cleared for flights.

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