The Boeing 737 MAX is finally returning to the skies for passenger service on American Airlines. On Tuesday, flight AA718 will operate between Miami and New York LaGuardia for a three hour flight up the Atlantic coast. The flight is scheduled to depart Miami International Airport at 10:32 local time and land in New York just prior to 1:30 in the afternoon.
American’s resumption of 737 MAX service begins the end of a long chapter in aviation history in which the workhorse Boeing aircraft was grounded and taken out of service worldwide. Following two crashes in late 2018 and early 2019, the entire fleet of nearly 400 active 737 MAX aircraft was grounded in March of 2019. Since then, Boeing, aviation authorities and airlines have been working to rectify an issue with the airframe’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and recertify the MAX for commercial flight. Now, after extensive testing and certification, the aircraft is ready to relaunch commercial service.
Approaching the relaunch, the entire industry has worked to build faith in the aircraft and show the public that flying the 737 MAX is safe. Following recertification of the aircraft in November, American’s CEO Doug Parker and a handful of other company executives internally flew on the aircraft and publicly shared their confidence in the experience. Tuesday’s flight from Miami to New York City also has a handful of media onboard to document the experience.
That public dialogue may be valuable when it comes to convincing the traveling public that the 737 MAX is still safe. According to a poll run by Reuters and Ipsos, more than half of Americans familiar with the 2018 and 2019 crashes are still not fully comfortable flying on the aircraft, though 61% of respondents weren’t even familiar with the context of the disasters.
Much of the traveling public may also not know how and when they’re flying a 737 MAX. To date, American has only sprinkled the aircraft into its schedule on routes between Miami and New York and most flights between the cities are still on different equipment.
Many passengers also can’t tell the difference between a Boeing 737-800, an aircraft that wasn’t grounded, and the 737 MAX 8, which was the focus of the recertification. American Airlines currently operates around 300 737-800s while it has around 30 737 MAX 8s.
Still, the public campaign to bring the 737 MAX back into service can only help build confidence in a traveling community that’s still recovering from both this affair and the COVID-19 pandemic.
American’s 737 MAX service kicks off on December 29th and will slowly expand largely out of Miami through January. United, which also operates the 737 MAX, plans to launch service on the aircraft in the first quarter of 2021 while Southwest, the other big operator of the aircraft in the United States, plans its own relaunch in the second quarter.