Southwest Airlines, the world’s biggest operator of the 737 MAX, have said they will not attempt to rename the aircraft when it comes back into service. President Donald Trump first floated the idea of a rebrand of the type back in April, but up to now, no airlines have made any firm move in either direction.
Speaking to Flight Global during the Boyd Group International Forecast Summit in Las Vegas, Southwest Airlines made it clear their intention for the future of the plane. Flight Global reports the airline to have said,
“We will not change the name of the aircraft. That would be disingenuous … It will still be called the MAX for us.”
We asked Southwest about their decision, and they told us,
“Our philosophy is to be completely open and transparent with our Customers, just as they’ve come to expect from Southwest.
“We have said publicly that if a Customer is concerned about flying on a MAX, we will offer them the flexibility to change their itinerary.
“We know we will have work to do to educate and inform our Customers about the impending software enhancements and any additional training required once the FAA authorizes the safe return to service of the MAX, and we’ll do so in a very deliberate, open and transparent manner.”
But will all operators of the 737 MAX think the same, or will some attempt to cover up the re-entry of the type by identifying it on schedules by some other name?
What’s in a name?
Previously, US President Donald Trump has outlined the potential benefits of changing the name of the aircraft. Sharing this knowledge in a tweet last April, he recommended Boeing add some features and rebrand the plane, thereby solving all its problems.
What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name.
No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
While this might sound somewhat deceptive for passengers and, frankly, a ridiculous idea, it doesn’t seem to have been dismissed out of hand by some airlines. According to a report in CNN earlier this month, sources have claimed that some airlines plan to refer to the MAX as the 737-8 or the 737-10 when it re-enters service.
Simple Flying asked Boeing about the situation; a spokesperson responded,
“Our immediate focus is the safe return of the Max to service and re-earning the trust of airlines and the traveling public. We remain open minded to all input from customers and other stakeholders, but have no plans at this time to change the name of the 737 MAX.”
Who will rebrand the MAX?
While no names were named, there has already been some evidence of brand shuffling among the current and future operators of the type. For example, when IAG placed its surprise order for 200 of the model, all their press releases omitted the word MAX from the details.
Ryanair too was accused of hiding the brand, when a 737 MAX 200 was spotted liveried with the name 737-8200. However, Ryanair and Boeing have denied this claim, saying that this was the working name for the 200 seat variant from the outset.
Looks like @Ryanair is dropping the MAX title from is new #737MAX200 aircraft. Instead of “737 MAX” on the nose the 5th aircraft rolled out of paint wearing “737-8200” in its place. pic.twitter.com/37HH5axgQx
— Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris) July 14, 2019
However, other airlines have dismissed the idea of renaming the MAX including, according to CNN, American Airlines. IAG did not dismiss the idea entirely, but said that it was “too early to comment on branding.”
A CNN analyst, Peter Goelz, thinks that the reaction to the MAX will determine the fate of the name. He said, “…If data shows passengers are avoiding the MAX, I think you’ll see airlines rebrand it.”
The outcome of the MAX’s return to service, and whether it will indeed undergo a rebrand, remains to be seen. However, the notion of pulling the wool over passengers’ eyes by exploiting nuances in nomenclature seems like a very bad move, and one which will surely backfire if airlines are anything less than 100% transparent.
What do you think? Would the average passenger be able to call a spade a spade, or would they happily fly away unaware of the aircraft type in operation?