It was previously reported that United Airlines expects the Boeing 737 MAX to remain grounded until January 6. However, airline CEO Oscar Munoz won’t force customers to board the aircraft once it is back in operation.
Not in any rush
Speaking today at The Aviation Club UK, the executive shared how his airline is not in any rush to get the aircraft back in the sky. United is prioritizing safety above all else, and understands that procedures need to be done in order to ensure this.
“It’s quite simple for us. We really do focus on the safety and security of not only our customers but our employees as well,” Munoz said at the talk, attended by Simple Flying.
“So, we await the overall procedural regulatory process that ensures that the aircraft will be safe to return. We will abide by that, we are not in a particular hurry to force them to do anything differently.
“With regards to international regulators, they will have to do their own assessments. We hope that it’s a relatively compact period but at the end of the day, it really is a simple concept that they have to be safe and secure.”
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019, following two fatal accidents. The widespread negative publicity surrounding the incidents has led to many passengers skeptical about boarding the airliner. Even after approval, many may still feel anxious about stepping on the jet.
However, there have been around 5,000 units of the aircraft ordered. The majority of these haven’t yet been fulfilled as Boeing has been focusing on getting the plane operating again. In an effort to reassure passengers, Munoz has stated that he will be the first person on a United flight that operates with a 737 MAX.
“I pledge to be on our first flight, which may not sound like much to a lot of people. It’s important for us, not just because a regulatory agency, a manufacturer, or an airline says its safe. I think it’s important that as part of my ‘proof not promise’ mantra, that I be on the first flight,” he added.
Munoz also understands that the process of trusting the aircraft will be slow. Therefore, he doesn’t want passengers to be forced into doing anything that they don’t want to do. So, United will introduce measures for passengers to rebook their flight if it happens to be on a 737 MAX.
“More importantly, we are going to make it incredibly transparent for our customers to know that when they book a flight if it is indeed on a MAX aircraft, they will absolutely know,” Munoz explained.
“If for some reason, if they get closer to their flight, and they are determined that they don’t feel comfortable, or safe, we will absolutely rebook them at no extra cost. It is that important to us that we don’t just assume that everybody is going to just jump back on that aircraft.”
United has 14 Boeing 737 MAXs currently grounded. The carrier has been planning on retiring its 757 fleet, but the groundings could push these plans back. By operating from January 2020, the airline would start the year in a strong position for new operations. However, the airline has affirmed that they will only fly the aircraft when they are comfortable.
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