It goes without saying that Boeing is in quite a pickle with the 737 MAX. The plane is grounded globally following two accidents. Boeing and regulators are now working on getting the plane back in the sky.
Trust in the 737 MAX is low
Part of Boeing’s work is convincing everyone — passengers, pilots, global regulators, etc. — that the plane is safe to fly again. Even if the FAA deems the plane airworthy, that doesn’t mean other aviation authorities will. Given that many airlines fly the 737 MAX on international routes, this could present a challenging situation unless all other aviation authorities quickly follow.
IAG’s 737 MAX letter of intent
Yesterday IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling, and LEVEL) signed a letter of intent to acquire 200 Boeing 737 MAXs. I imagine the way Boeing and IAG viewed this:
- Boeing appreciated the public support from IAG, which they so desperately need at this point
- IAG likely got a very good deal on these planes, should they actually choose to follow through on the order (this is just a letter of intent at this point, and it can’t even be ruled out that this was on some level a publicity stunt)
But there’s something very interesting regarding how the announcement was made, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. If you look at IAG’s press release about this deal, you’ll see that nowhere do they use the term “MAX.”
Instead they simply refer to the planes they want to order as the 737-8 and 737-10. While those are technically the names of the planes, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen an airline not use the word “MAX” In a press release when referring to this type of plane.
I suspect this was a coordinated effort between Boeing and IAG, given the nature of the deal.
Is Boeing rebranding the 737 MAX?
Jon Ostrower points out that the IAG deal almost certainly marks the rebranding of the 737 MAX. Understandably Boeing won’t make a big fuss of this, because their goal is to minimize publicity around the plane as much as possible for the time being. Furthermore, I would expect Boeing to only change how they refer to the plane after it’s flying again, or else it may backfire. But I think he’s almost certainly right here.
This is even something that President Trump had suggested a while ago on Twitter (therefore it must be a great idea!):
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
Previous models of the 737 had three digit designators (737-700, 737-800, 737-900, etc.), while the MAX only has one digit behind the plane type (737 MAX 8, 737 MAX 9, and 737 MAX 10). That means the planes will now likely be referred to as the 737-8, 737-9, and 737-10.
In the meantime Ryanair has done something similar — they’ve rebranded the 737 MAX 200 as the 737-8200.
Boeing and airlines have a big challenge ahead of them in convincing the public that they should fly the 737 MAX once it’s certified again. Franky I can’t say that rebranding is a bad idea, and this is a subtle way to do it without being completely shady, in my opinion.
In reality the 737 MAX 8 is the 737-8. The “MAX” term was always used for marketing. But when that marketing term starts to consistently have a negative connotation among passengers, it’s logical enough that they’d want to drop it.
While I don’t expect we’ll see the “MAX” name dropped across the board overnight, I strongly believe that this is the first step in a subtle but deliberate rebranding of the plane. I imagine this will become more apparent once the plane is back in the air.
Do you think this is Boeing quietly rebranding the 737 MAX, and if so, what do you make of it?