With the recertification flights for the 737 MAX now complete, Boeing is faced with the next hurdle: passenger confidence. To better understand how people feel about the 737 MAX’s safety, Simple Flying conducted an online poll. Using the results, we will try to understand whether people are willing to board the 737 MAX right away, and if not, how long will they wait.
Before we analyze the results of our poll, it should be noted that the poll is not meant to be scientific. The poll was conducted on the Simple Flying Instagram page, with 2,780 respondents answering at least one question, from 8th to 9th July. For more specifics, do reach out in the comments!
The majority are ready to fly again
Over half of our respondents, 55% to be precise, are willing to fly the 737 MAX as soon as recertification is complete. This is a boost to the aircraft type, which has been on the ground since March 2019, following two fatal crashes. If this holds true when the plane is actually recertified is to be seen, but it could help airlines cope with passengers demanding to change aircraft.
The road to recertification is rigorous. The FAA will first analyze data from this month’s flights, looking for any inconsistencies. Following this, if all is sound, the FAA will evaluate Boeing’s proposed pilot training. The FAA Chief will himself pilot the 737 MAX too, to shore up confidence. A number of other documentation and reports will be written as well, extending the process.
The process will take some time, with airlines hoping for a return by the end of the year. It seems the process has shored up some passenger confidence, although other countries might undertake their own tests, adding more time to the process.
Still a ways to go
While the 737 MAX does hold some confidence, it still has some ways to go. 45% of our respondents said they will hold off before flying the MAX right after recertification. The follow-up question was, “If no, how long would you wait before flying a Boeing 737 MAX again?”. To this, 42% of responses said they will wait at least 6 months before flying the type, with 58% saying they’ll hold off for over a year.58% of those unwilling to fly the MAX after recertification want to wait over a year. Graph: Simple Flying
The second question might be of concern to Boeing and airlines. While the current coronavirus means the MAX will only fly a small number of flights, if passengers are unwilling to fly on the plane long-term, it could further slow demand. Airlines are looking to use the MAX to quickly ramp up 2021 schedules if the pandemic allows.
However, a lot can change between now and the ungrounding of the MAX. Both Boeing and airlines are pushing for a number of events to celebrate the MAX’s return and demonstrate its safety, including flying airline executives before passengers. This might help assuage concerns over its safety and bring back customers.
The next generation of Boeing narrowbodies?
The final question of our polls was, “Should Boeing introduce a 737 successor soon?”. While the 737 MAX is a relatively new aircraft, the bad press and intense competition from the A320 could drive Boeing to advance its development timeline.
Over 64% of respondents said Boeing should bring in the 737 MAX successor soon, quite a large proportion. Currently, Boeing will likely introduce the successor by around 2030, but could move up those dates. The decision could also rely on how successful the MAX is once back in service, whether it reintegrates smoothly or faces issues. With the A321XLR entering service in 2023, Boeing could struggle in the market for longer-haul narrowbodies.
It seems the 737 MAX does have a long way to go before being reintegrated into the global fleet. However, many do seem keen to start flying the new aircraft again, while others are still holding off. Both sides have their own reasons and arguments, and no one is correct. The real answer about the MAX’s will success will only come once the plane is back in the air.
Will you fly the MAX once it is recertified? Should Boeing accelerate of the 737 successors? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!