Is Boeing Quietly Rebranding The 737 MAX?

Filed Under: Misc.

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.

Boeing claims the necessary software updates are complete, but there’s a lot more work to be done.

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!):

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.

Bottom line

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?

  1. Just let me know the code under which the rebranded aircraft will be pubished, so I can avoid it.

  2. @Mike, I will probably still have the same ICAO/IATA codes, but the public facing side will be renamed from MAX# to 737-#

  3. Bottom line – whatever they rebrand it as, it’s still the MAX. They have to have some way to differentiate it from the regular 800…

  4. It would make sense since the only reason Boeing called it the MAX was because Airbus had a cool sounding name with the NEO although that actually stood for something (New Engine Option).

    Whereas MAX was just to hide the fact that the 737 is a 52 year old aircraft

  5. Will be fun when the media reports this and passengers try to avoid all 737 aircrafts.

  6. There’s still a lot of people (and even some OTAs) that refer to the 787 models as -800 and -900, when in fact they are -8 and -9.

    So there’s definitely a large chance that there will be some confusion with the 737NGs. But maybe that isn’t a bad thing in Boeing’s eyes.

  7. If they don’t differentiate the rebranded MAX from the non-MAX models distinctly, it has the potential to pollute the standard 737’s brand value. Tricky maneuver.

  8. Even before the crashes the plane sucked anyway. So now Boeing and the airlines that fly these planes, have a monumental task to try and convince the public that they’re both safe and actually nice to fly in. Neither of which is easy to do.

  9. The 737-8, 737-9, 737-10 monikers do match the newer Boeing a/c nomenclature that’s now used on the 787 and 777-X series. Dumping the “MAX” name is a very wise move, as that’s the identifier that the media have used ad-nauseum. And, the average person (i.e., none of us here) is not going to even realize that a 737-8 is actually a renamed 737 MAX-8. And yes, Trump had a point on this one.

    Personally, I’d love to see this program scrapped – but that’s not a reasonable expectation. It’s come too far. So, Boeing will eventually get the MAX back in the air and, by that time, those planes will be 737-X’s and the new name will do a lot to put Boeing’s nasty times behind them. All that said, I don’t see the MAX series being as big of a seller going forward. And Airbus is going to be clobbering Boeing for a while because of this misstep and because they never bothered to design a successor to the 757 until very recently. And even then, I don’t know that it’s what airlines are looking for. Hence the incredible success of the A321-XLR.

  10. I would wager that over 90% of the flying public doesn’t know the difference among 737 models. Boeing will undoubtedly rebrand the MAX with something that will confuse people with other 737 model nomenclature.

  11. Sorry but they can call it whatever they like but there is no way in hell I am stepping foot on a 737 Max. Any plane capable of overriding pilot instructions and hurling it’s way to the ground is unsafe to me inspite of whatever fixes they may choose to install.
    The fact is that the 737s airframe is unsuitable for its engines and it is a slap dash product. It has a design flow and is aero dynamically unstable.

  12. Great move. To be honest I always thought the “Max” nomiker was idiotic. They are bringing it in line with the rest of the Boeing family.

    95pct of the public won’t know the difference anyway, and certainly wouldn’t have in any case after 6 months. For all the internet hysteria, a majority of people never know if they are on a Boeing or an Airbus, let alone what type.

  13. Gol Airlines, from Brazil, Boeing’s #1 client in Latin America, not only is calling its fleet of 7 Max-8 only 737-8, but has already repainted all the airplanes with the new name!

  14. Interesting that many major 737 operators have announced orders for A321XLR this week including Americain, Qantas and China Airlines. Clearly there is liitle faith in the 737 MAX!

  15. I agree that the whole design should be scrapped. The 737 was crap when it was designed and it’s even worse now….

  16. Whether you like it or not Trump does have a point and after all he is a business-man so he does know what he’s talking about.

  17. Also, to everyone saying it should be scrapped, the plane was basically asked for by the airlines so they don’t need to train pilots/ crew on a new aircraft type etc, id imagine if Boeing had it their way they would have never came up with the 737 max and started a whole new design but after all they’re a business and have to make a product that will not only satisfy their customers in what they want but also sell. However, saying that tho, are we ever going to see an end to the 737? Im sure airlines don’t really want to as it keeps costs down but id imagine that the cycle’s going to have to eventually be broken.

  18. It would be sheer idiocy for Boeing not to rebrand the MAX aircraft.
    And for once I find myself agreeing with the Cheetoh-in-Chief! Interesting he can create concensus on points of commerce and business. Perhaps he will find that is where his best work is done and leave politics to those who know more in that field!

  19. For the love of all that is calm and rational, @Lucky please please PLEASE stop showing tweet from a certain public persona. Please don’t turn your blog into a political arena! (except if you plan to do so, in which case please let me know ahead of time).

  20. Of course dropping “MAX” is completely shady. Boeing’s approach to this entire situation has been slimy.

  21. Rebranding the nomenclature in a confusing way could seriously backfire as most people don’t know how these aircraft name series differ, people will now tend to avoid Boeing completely in order not to book up the rebranded MAX. Suggestion: Fix the MAX and remove that particular artificial intelligence that overrides the pilot and allow the system to be like the traditional 737s. Crawl into the business once again and restore customers confi with time.

  22. You’d be suprised the amount people dont care about aircraft types. They’re only scared of the “737 MAX because it crashed twice!!!” You drop the MAX part and they probably wont notice since they’re too busy thinking about where they’re trying to go. Only Avgeeks would notice.

  23. The Airbus A320 had a string of terrible crashes (including its demonstration flight at the Habsheim Airshow 1988!) caused by a bad computer interface fighting against human control, and yet this is the design most commenters here are holding up as the gold safety standard! It’s also worth noting that Airbus never apologised, merely quietly corrected the computer interface. I am not attacking them specifically but highlighting how ridiculous this debate has become.

    Yes people will forget this after 6 months to a year and the 7M8 will continue to fly, and likely quite safely.

    I hate that I seem to be a pure Boeing defender here – they have made some terrible decisions – but the emotional hysteria shown recently in comments about this aircraft type just needs to be corrected.

  24. Why can’t these marketing morons at both Boeing and Airbus come up with cool sounding shit, like the military does? SR-71 Blackbird, F-22 Raptor, B-52 Stratofortress…who the hell wouldn’t feel safe boarding a passenger flight on a plane named the Stratofortress?!

  25. I’d say that any 737 MAX aircraft that has received the new upgrades should be called an even more different name. Start where the 737-900ER left off.

    737-1000 is a start

    While the 737 MAX story is tragic, it has happened before.

    1. deHavilland Comet crashes and redesign.
    2. McDonnell Douglas DC-10 decertificated and then brought back
    3. Unexplained crashes of 737-200 where the plane crashed into the ground. Later attributed to uncommanded rudder trim.
    4. BAe Aerospatiale Concorde crash and decertificated then brought back.

  26. They should rename it the Boeing DH 106 Comet. Thank God China and the EU grounded the 737 Mac before strike 3.

  27. Everyone comparing the 737Max crashes to other aviation incidents really need an education.

    The difference between this and the A320/Comet/DC-10 crashes is simple:

    1. Boeing made a deliberately unwise engineering decision
    2. They knew this decision could result in unstable behavior
    3. They built a piece of software incorrectly designed to compensate for #2
    4. They then built a warning light to compensate for the errors in #3
    5. They required airlines to pay for this warning light
    6. Pilots were not told about the feature
    7. These things caused 2 crashes, in between which boeing absolutely knew the cause but did nothing radical to stop the second one from happening
    8. They denied denied denied in every venue, including to the president and tried to use political influence to prevent a grounding – even though the plane was unsafe

    Boeing has acted like a company that cannot be trusted, not a company taking great engineering leaps that didn’t pan out. Greed, malfeasance, misrepresentation.

    A rebrand is likely to destroy the 737 brand value across the board.

  28. @Aman so you dont fly the A330 either? Do search AF 447 and see what that airplane did before making your pronouncements.

  29. @Donna you are so right. Does anyone know where airplane types in terms of factors driving passenger buying behaviour? Hint the biggest drivers are PRICE, schedule and loyalty programs (without which Lucky wouldnt have a blog lol).

  30. Why don’t they legitimately come out and explain they’ve totally scrapped the MAX plane, completely overhauled everything, and it’s not a MAX plane anymore?

    I mean essentially it’s not the MAX anymore anyway since they’ve done a complete overhaul. It is a whole new plane with whole new software.

    Besides who cares? In 6-12 months nobody is gonna remember any of this and life will go on. Look at the early 737’s rudder hard over crashes on the UA crash, the Silk (although that was probably pilot suicide) and the US crash, am I missing one?

    Everyone forgot about that and the 737 became one of the best selling planes in the world and is a backbone for many airlines. The same thing will happen with this. I don’t think it’s deceptive since it is a whole new plane. And you can bet that this plane will never fall out of the sky again because then they are done with these models.

  31. @Abe the work done on the 737 MAX is not a complete overhaul. Only the software controlling MCAS and its associated data acquisition and display system are being refitted. The changes involve at most the replacement and rewiring of a single warning instrument. It is very much the same plane.

  32. From a PR perspective, they are blundering everything. The most important thing right now is TRANSPARENCY. And it appears that they’re either completely incapable of that — or entirely tone deaf. Quite astounding.

  33. I was thinking this the other day when I saw an article that the majority of passengers don’t trust 737 max. My immediate though was to discretely rename it to something like completely different like F105, and most passenger would even know, even if there are news of the re-branding. Most passenger probably doesn’t know different aircrafts, even when listed on their reservations. It is mostly frequent travelers or aviation geek that take note of such thing.

  34. I’m curious what they will call their latest variant 48 years from now. The 737-100, 737-Centenary, 737-Platinum Jubilee? Obviously, Boeing is never going to retire this airframe, so I think a version marking 100 years of service is a very real possibility.

  35. Who cares if the general pubic doesn’t know which airplane is which – I know, and I’m looking out for me first. So, dear airlines of the world, I (and many others) are capable of making our own decisions whether or not to fly a particular airframe be it for comfort, safely, airline, alliance, service or whatever. We do already: narrow body vrs wide body across the Atlantic? But right off the top, sorry Boeing, if I see a NG or a 7,8,9,10 737 on a particular route I need to fly — I’ll be researching other offerings.

  36. Boeing can rebrand all they like, it won’t get past the fundamentally flawed design and I’m not flying on it at any time in the future.

  37. So what’s it going to be ? The FIX?, The LEVEL?,

    Should there be no rebranding for the plane, if LEVEL is going to have MAXs through the IAG MOU, (assuming it ever becomes an order) they might as well rename the airline instead.
    LEVEL does not go with MAX

  38. Rebranding it will get most people to fly on it. Most people get all the make and models messed up. Just before they grounded the MAX, my friends was texting me to tell them which is which. I should get paid to do that.

  39. I would say dropping a name or changing one would be normal in the circumstances, one thing is certain it will be a very much saver now than it was before.

  40. I will never fly this aircraft again. In fact I will actively strive to determine if my selected route / airline is flying this aircraft, whether it’s been rebranded or not.

    Despite Boeing’s posturing to the contrary, I think it’s despicable that they prioritised profits over safety; reducing the required training to a two-hour iPad tutorial as a way to get their model to market faster just to compete with Airbus; outsourcing elements of the MCAS design to suppliers who paid their engineers $7 an hour; the list goes on…

    Even now they’re desperate to get back to market, and I am inclined to agree that the IAG letter of intent was a publicity stunt. That’s sickening, as is any form of rebranding, whether by Boeing or the private airlines. To me, rebranding is a clear intent to CONTINUE prioritising profits over passengers concerns and the airlines are just as guilty as Boeing themselves. It’s akin to saying “we don’t want our passengers to know that they’re flying in an aircraft that has killed nearly 400 people, so let’s trick them into thinking they’re not, so we don’t lose any more money”. Disgusting.

    The industry needs more regulation, more competition and less “cronyism” e.g. FAA shouldn’t be allowed to delegate regulatory checks to the companies they are supposed to be regulating!!!!!

    The A380 has a 100% safety record. I think I’ll continue flying this. I’ll NEVER fly this aircraft again and I’ll avoid Boeing planes in general like the plague.

  41. The only “damaged brand” that is relevant to a re-branding do or don’t is Tylenol. Johnson and Johnson had this same dilemma, and it was the same emotional reason that Boeing would be very ill-advised to change the name. It’s about trust. Boeing needs to restore the public’s trust in their company, changing the name in some stupid attempt to distract, deceive, obfuscate….you get the idea, these are NOT words you use when you are trying to get someone to trust you again. Any attempt my Boeing to rename the MAX will be blasted by the media, and rightfully so, it’s a dirty trick, and that’s exactly how the public will see it.

  42. The only “damaged brand” that is relevant to a re-branding do or don’t is Tylenol. Johnson and Johnson had this same dilemma, and it was the same emotional reason that Boeing would be very ill-advised to change the name. It’s about trust. Boeing needs to restore the public’s trust in their company again, changing the name in some stupid attempt to distract, deceive, obfuscate….you get the idea, these are NOT words you use when you are trying to get someone to trust you again. Any attempt by Boeing to rename the MAX will be blasted by the media, and rightfully so, it’s a dirty trick, and that’s exactly how the public will see it.

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