Airlines plan confidence building flights for 737MAX

Photo: Reuters

Airlines in the US and Europe are planning intensive campaigns to build passenger, pilot and cabin crew confidence when the Aircraft eventually goes back into service.

Surveys are showing that 59% of passengers have a negative view of the aircraft with as many as 75% saying if they had a choice they wouldn’t fly on it.

Knowledge of the 737MAX and it’s problems are at a staggering level of awareness – some 93% of the public are said to have some or more detailed understanding of the issues and the aircraft. It’s one of the most deeply comprehended aviation incidents in the history of the industry.

Focus groups are demonstrating marked reluctance to approve of anything that airlines plan to do to make passengers feel better.

It’s not a simple issue to overcome people’s reticence to fly on the aircraft. Cabin crew have told American Airlines they don’t want to fly on it for example. Many pilots remain unconvinced it can ever be put right.

However as with all things there’s a bizarre counterpoint. Only 1% of passengers check what aircraft they’re flying on at point of booking. So for most it’s when they get to the airport and either see and recognise the aircraft (around 15%) or when they get on board and see the safety card. Airlines don’t want anyone suddenly changing their minds and getting off with all the potential for delays that creates.

So, openness and clarity are planned from the point of booking. In addition to that, some airlines are planning demonstration flights with senior managers aboard and tours of aircraft to boost confidence.

These “leadership flights” have their downside. Similar stunts by politicians and businesses have gone horribly awry, or been parodied for their cynicism. It only takes one to have a minor incident and the whole thing can be turned into a devastating negative.

However facts are facts and airlines have aircraft and they’re going to fly them with you in it wether you like it or not, if you’re going on a route the MAX operates. Your choice is either to fly or not and in the end, most people will just accept it. So airlines think.

However there’s plenty of evidence to suggest for once that they might not be so willing.

When British Airways announced they were buying 200 of the aircraft the feedback wasn’t so positive. But they think nobody will even remember by the time they enter service.

I will. And I’ll never get on one unless and if only my life depended on it. The concept was flawed from day one and it’ll never be truly safe in my opinion.