- MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
- Southwest Airlines’ president said the airline isn’t considering discounting any flights involving the Boeing 737 Max when the jet returns to service because the public trust the plane.
- Tom Nealon said most people don’t pay as much attention to the plane as the industry does, and that the “vast majority” of flyers won’t change how they fly.
- Nealon also said some people will trust the Max more than other plane models when it returns: “The thought being, it’s actually going to be the safest plane out there with all the scrutiny.”
- The plane has been grounded since last March after two crashes killed 346 people. It has been under scrutiny from aviation regulators since.
- Airlines, including Southwest, have been debating how much to alert flyers who have booked flights on the plane when it returns.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Southwest Airlines is so confident that flyers will trust the Boeing 737 Max when it returns to service that it’s not considering any discounts on flights using the plane.
Southwest President Tom Nealon told reporters on Thursday that “at this point, there’s no notion of discounting Max flights,” according to USA Today.
He said that the “vast majority” of flyers don’t plan to change how they fly, and that some travelers said they will actually fly on that plane more frequently than on other models.
“The thought being, it’s actually going to be the safest plane out there with all the scrutiny,” he said.
The plane has been grounded around the world and has been undergoing scrutiny from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other global regulators since March 2019, after it was involved in two deadly crashes.
Boeing has maintained it will be one of the safest-ever planes when it returns.
- Xinhua/ via Getty Images
The two crashes – by a Lion Air plane in Indonesia in October 2018, and an Ethiopian Airlines plane in Ethiopia in March 2019 – killed a total of 346 people.
The plane will not be able to fly again until it is re-certified by regulators, and Boeing has made an update to the plane’s software system that investigators said malfunctioned in both deadly crashes.
But a host of other issues have since been uncovered by the FAA, and the regulator is moving slowly through the process of letting it return to the skies as it faces public and political pressure over the way it let Boeing help with the certification of the 737 Max in the first place.
Nealon said Thursday, however, the general public is “nowhere near as zeroed in on this topic” as people in the airline industry and the media.
“I think we’re going to see the customers come back pretty nicely,” he said. “Some may take a little longer than others, maybe a month or two months, but they’re going to come back.”
Southwest said in May 2019 that it would let passengers who don’t want to fly on the Boeing 737 Max switch flights free of charge.
Airlines have options as the public suggests it doesn’t fully trust the plane
Some polls have suggested that, contrary to Nealon’s comments, members of the public are reluctant to fly on the plane.
According to a June 2019 poll by UBS, 41% of Americans said they wouldn’t consider flying on a Max plane until it had been back in service for six months.
- REUTERS/Mike Blake
Helio Fred Garcia, president of the crisis-management firm Logos Consulting, previously told Business Insider that many passengers don’t check what type of plane they are on or realize the significance of any model numbers – but there could be chaos if people realize its significance and panic after booking.
A Southwest representative separately told Business Insider in October that the airline would specifically tell passengers on its app and website whether they are flying on a 737 Max, in order to give passengers “additional awareness.”
Other airlines are also scrambling to figure out how they should treat nervous passengers – and many airlines previously told Business Insider that they won’t come up with a strategy until just before the plane returns. It’s still not clear when the jet will return.
Airlines will have to balance the idea that some people are afraid of the plane without addressing it so much that it makes other people afraid.
They are trying to figure out how and when to tell passengers what type of plane they are on, and some say they will let concerned passengers rebook to other planes – which could cause chaos in itself.
- Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Passengers’ potential fears about the plane is only one part of the woes that airlines are facing over the Max, with many airlines having lost millions of dollars and, in some cases, canceled flights.
Many are seeking compensation from Boeing, who is also facing government investigations and lawsuits, and is losing millions of dollars a month. The plane maker is currently looking for a $10 billion loan to bolster its finances.
Southwest reported its quarterly earnings on Thursday, and noted a profit tumble largely attributable to the 737 Max.
Southwest had more Max planes in its fleet than any other airline in the world before the planes were grounded.
- Read more about the Boeing 737 Max:
- Airlines are scrambling to work out how to tell passengers they’re flying on a 737 Max when it finally returns to service and how to avoid the ‘chaos’ it could cause if they get it wrong
- Southwest had a mess of a year because of the 737 Max, and it’s only going to get worse – but there are a few bright spots
- Boeing doesn’t think its troubled 737 Max will return before summer
- Boeing had its worst year in 3 decades and lost the title of world’s biggest plane-maker
- A Boeing employee called Lion Air, the airline in the first 737 Max crash, ‘idiots’ for asking to have its pilots trained in flying the plane