Canadian airline WestJet is eagerly awaiting the return to service of the Boeing 737 MAX. Speaking at the World Aviation Festival last week, Chief Operating Officer of WestJet, Jeff Martin, noted how important it was to remain transparent with its guests, and said WestJet was prepared to deal with customers who were uncomfortable flying the type.
WestJet prepared to deal with sensitivities around the MAX
Following Transport Canada’s conclusion of the Boeing 737 MAX flight tests, Canadian airlines are looking forward to getting the type back in their fleets. One such airline is WestJet, which has said it is ‘excited’ to welcome back the aircraft.
Speaking at last week’s World Aviation Festival, Chief Operating Officer of WestJet, Jeff Martin, commented,
“We’re anxious to get the aircraft back. It scores really well with our guests.”
While those who did manage to get a flight on the 737 MAX likely would have felt it was a great aircraft, perceptions have changed a lot since then. Two fatal accidents and a grounding that has gone on for far longer than anyone could have imagined have shaken travelers’ confidence and assured that the designation ‘MAX’ has stuck in the passengers’ minds.
The WestJet COO is acutely aware of this and is prepared to make concessions for those unwilling to fly it in the early days. Martin said,
“We anticipate sensitivities. We will be completely transparent anybody who’s going to board a MAX aircraft they will know that, and we will be prepared to deal with folks if for some reason they don’t feel comfortable.”
Martin did not specify precisely how WestJet planned to handle objections to flying the type. However, other airlines have similarly said they wish to be transparent with customers about the type. Back in March, Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary told Simple Flying it would not force passengers to fly on the MAX.
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The importance of transparency
For WestJet, Martin believes full transparency is the key to customer relations. He noted that, through the current crisis, keeping the lines of communication open with customers has been essential. It’s a theme he plans to continue as the MAX returns to service too. He said,
“There’s a common theme that we’ve learned through this crisis … you just have to be transparent. You have to be transparent with the travelling public on what the risks are and what your mitigations are, and people will make their decisions. It’s the only way you can survive in this industry is just 100% transparency.”
2,000 man-hours required
Even though WestJet is already laying the groundwork for the MAX to return to service, Martin warned that it would not happen any time soon. Although he expects the ban to be lifted in the fourth quarter of the year, he also said that the amount of work required to bring the type back into operation should not be underestimated. He noted,
“We estimate there’s probably close to 2,000 man-hours of work that needs to be done. It’s normal maintenance, as well as sending our pilots off to training so they can go through a specified MAX simulator.
“Those are the same steps that would be taken on the aircraft that are parked right now, whether it’s a MAX or an Airbus or an NG. Any plane that’s parked has to have its maintenance protocols brought up to speed.”
Right now, 13 MAX are parked across the US and Canada. To those, WestJet is planning to add another 43 of the type, spread across the MAX 7, 8 and 10. While Martin says WestJet is committed to taking these deliveries, he also notes that the current crisis will have a bearing on how quickly they arrive.