***Update 02/25/2020 @ 10:45 UTC – Having spoken with TUI this article has been corrected. TUI advises that it only avoids the MAX terminology internally. ***
The Boeing 737 MAX is a name that will go down in history, and not for the right reasons. But for TUI, the name won’t be featured in its history books at all. The airline has confirmed that once the aircraft is cleared for flight again, it will be referred to in all internal flight plans as the 737-8, although the name will not be changed for passengers.
The effect of a bad reputation
The reputation of the MAX in public circles is probably as low as any aircraft has ever been. The two fatal crashes and the following year of turmoil and rumors mean opinion is divided. There are those who believe that, once recertified, the MAX will be the safest aircraft around. Fear of another incident means Boeing and the FAA just won’t let it fly until it’s the safest thing with wings.
However, others take the opposite view and are proclaiming that they will never fly on 737 MAX in the future. This is a view that gained momentum after it was reported that a Boeing employee stated he wouldn’t let his family fly on one.
Now, TUI has confirmed that it will use the name 737-8 internally. However, it says there will be no change to customer-facing naming of the plane, and that it will still be the 737 MAX as far as passengers are concerned. Other outlets have reported that this terminology will be carried through to the passenger side, but TUI told Simple Flying it will not. The airline said,
“We are not changing anything on the plane like it’s naming on the fuselage etc. Just the internal reference will be Boeing 737-8 – that’s what technicians and pilots are using for their work already during the years”
A haphazard rebranding
While TUI isn’t rebranding the MAX for passengers, some other airlines are. Low-cost carrier VietJet has 200 737 MAX on order. But when the first aircraft rolled off the production line, they bore the name 737-8. The word MAX is nowhere to be seen.
However, not everyone has taken the same approach. Last year, images surfaced on social media of a Ryanair aircraft bearing the new brand 737-8200. 737-8 and 737-9 have so far been used as an acceptable alternative name for the MAX aircraft so Ryanair is the first to distance itself further and use the 737-8200 brand.
— Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris) July 15, 2019
While this may initially seem a haphazard and out-of-touch rebranding, it may work in Ryanair’s favor. If more airlines try to distance themselves for the MAX name by using the same moniker, the 737-8 name may become as well-know and infamous as the MAX.
The court of public opinion
The interesting debate here is not whether airlines are doing the right thing by rebranding the MAX, but whether the public will care. Clearly, Ryanair and VietJet all believe that the public’s distrust of the MAX has the potential to damage their future sales.
By rebranding the aircraft, they could avoid some difficulties further down the line. However, if some airlines do not rebrand the MAX and the majority of passengers do not mind traveling on the MAX in the future, it may look as if the airlines who did rebrand, tried to deceive their customers.
Boeing has yet to publicly comment on whether it will scrap the MAX name in the future. So far, they are sticking by it. Even after President Trump got involved and said the brand was irrevocably damaged.
But Boeing also hasn’t complained about the airlines who have already rebranded. Allowing airlines to ditch the MAX name shows that at this stage, Boeing is willing to please airlines who have ordered the MAX rather than defend their brand.
What do you think of airlines renaming the MAX? Will we see more airlines follow suit? Would you trust the 737 MAX when it’s cleared to fly again?