After nearly two years on the ground, Boeing’s 737 MAX has resumed flying for United Airlines. N37523, a 737 MAX 9 delivered to United Airlines in December, pushed back to operate a flight from Denver on Thursday morning. It is the first of 500 plus MAX flights at United Airlines this month. That will ramp up to around 2,000 flights in March.
A fresh start for the 737 MAX at United Airlines
United’s first 737 MAX only started flying in mid-2018. Amid a blaze of publicity, a United 737 MAX 9 aircraft first carried passengers between Houston and Orlando in June that year. It heralded in a new era at United. Back then, United Airlines had 160 plus MAXs on order at Boeing.
“The Boeing 737 MAX is a great addition to United’s fleet,” said United’s Rodney Cox at the time. Four months later, a 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 passengers and crew. In March 2019, a second MAX crashed after takeoff in Ethiopia, killing 157 people. After that, authorities worldwide moved swiftly to ground the 737 MAX. At that point, United Airlines had already taken delivery of 14 MAXs.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and employees,” said United Airlines as it followed the FAA’s no-fly order
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Return to service welcome news for United Airlines
One year and eight months after the FAA grounded the plane in the United States, the safety watchdog gave the MAX the green light to fly in November 2020. It was welcome news to long-suffering MAX operators like United, American, and Southwest.
Competitor American Airlines began flying their 737 MAXs in December. Southwest Airlines plans to resume MAX services in March. Alaska Airlines is also starting MAX flights in March.
Following extensive work by Boeing and the FAA, airlines are busy boosting confidence in the 737 MAX.
“We are fully confident in the safety of the 737 MAX, in the updates, and in the work . technicians performed while these planes were on the ground,” says United Airlines.
“United is working to implement the recommendations and directives from independent regulators, including FAA-mandated changes to the flight software, additional pilot training, and multiple test flights for each aircraft to ensure the planes are ready to fly.
“After these changes are made, each United MAX aircraft will be individually evaluated by our skilled pilots and aircraft technicians before they return to service.”
United Airlines moves to reassure MAX passengers
While safety is paramount, amid a cash crunch caused by the travel downturn, the economics of flying the MAX are more attractive than ever. The plane has the ability to fly farther on less fuel and offers significant reductions of CO2 emissions compared to older generation aircraft.
Economics or not, whether passengers share United’s confidence in the MAX remains largely unknown.
“When we begin to fly the MAX once again, you should feel completely confident,” says United Airlines. The airline says it will rebook or refund passengers free of charge if they find themselves on a service operated by a 737 MAX and would prefer not to board. This includes travelers booked on United’s basic economy tickets.
What do you think? Are you happy to board a 737 MAX flight at United Airlines or any other airline? Post a comment and let us know.