American Will Operate 737 MAX Flights To Nowhere

Filed Under: American

The Boeing 737 MAX is expected to be back in the skies within weeks, after having been “ungrounded” by the US Federal Aviation Administration. American is expected to be the first airline to resume flights with the 737 MAX, as the airline will start flying the plane between Miami and New York as of December 29.

American has some interesting plans prior to that…

American wants employees to fly the 737 MAX first

We’ve seen airlines operate some flights to nowhere as a way to engage those who want to travel but are dealing with closed borders, but we haven’t seen anything quite like this.

In December, American Airlines will operate five flights to nowhere with the 737 MAX, exclusively for employees. As the company explains, in order to restore customers’ confidence in the 737 MAX, the airline first needs to ensure employees are comfortable flying on the plane.

That’s why American will operate five flights with the 737 MAX leading up to this, which employees of American or its wholly owned subsidiaries can take.

Specifically, flights will be on the following dates out of the following airports:

  • December 3 from DFW
  • December 8 from MIA
  • December 9 from LGA
  • December 15 from LGA
  • December 17 from MIA

Each flight to nowhere is expected to last for about an hour. Presumably the reason these flights are primarily happening out of MIA and LGA is because the first route for the plane will be between those two airports.

Since American’s 737 MAXs have 172 seats each, that means up to 860 employees will have the opportunity to take these flights.

American will operate five 737 MAX flights for employees

Smart strategy, or unnecessary?

I recognize airlines (and Boeing) have an uphill battle when it comes to convincing the public that the 737 MAX is safe to fly. Personally I’d feel comfortable flying the 737 MAX again, given that multiple independent international aviation safety organizations have signed off on the fixes.

I realize other people might not feel the same way — some may recognize that their fear is irrational (for example, I’m terrified of chair lifts, but also know I shouldn’t be), while some may think their fear is rational (which I can’t necessarily blame them for, given that two of these planes crashed just weeks apart).

That being said, what exactly is being accomplished by these types of flights? Are employees supposed to get off the plane thinking “well I survived, so I guess this is a great plane?”

Unless we’re 737 MAX pilots and are in the cockpit, I’m not sure what impression people are supposed to come away with based on a flight in the cabin? It seems like it’s pretty binary, which is that either you’ll walk away from the flight feeling that it’s like any other flight, or, well… not.

I appreciate what American is going for here, and in general I commend American for being a transparent airline, and I think this is part of that. I’m just not sure I get this concept specifically. Similarly, there had been talk of American doing 737 MAX tours for customers prior to the plane reentering the service.

This might be one of those cases where I think less is more — slowly ease the plane back into service, don’t make a big deal of it, and hope that people eventually forget (which they inevitably will).

I’d also be curious to know how many employees choose to take these flights, and what their motives are. I can think of a few possible reasons:

  • Some avgeeks might like any opportunity to fly
  • Some might be genuinely curious to see firsthand if the plane is “safe”
  • Some might just like the bragging rights of being the first to fly the 737 MAX

Otherwise, though, there’s a major reason to avoid the 737 MAX, and that’s the Oasis interiors that American has installed on these planes.

The cabin of American’s 737 MAX

Bottom line

American will be operating five 737 MAX flights to nowhere for employees in December, ahead of the plane reentering commercial service. I appreciate what American is going for here — the airline wants employees to feel comfortable with the plane, so that customers can have confidence in the plane as well.

However, I’m not sure I follow the logic beyond that, when a successful 737 MAX flight is simply one that lands safely…

What do you make of American’s 737 MAX employee flights to nowhere? Is this smart, or unnecessary?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. I politely disagree with your take on this. These planes were authorized and approved to fly 3 years ago, and that didn’t prevent anything. Personally, I booked an extra flight on delta for my family and I just in case Alaska decides to swap in a MAX last minute on me. I want to see these planes fly for at least 2 years without incident before I voluntarily get on one. American is trying to gain the confidence of its customers and I definitely see the merit of this. I applaud them for actually caring what the public might think of their product. And as for hoping customers just “forget,” imagine the public outrage if that was found in an email from the CEO of Boeing.

  2. @ John — I think that’s a totally fair take, to say that you want to see the planes flying for a couple of years before you get back on them. But I think that also gets at my point about not understanding these flights. The safety of the 737 MAX will be determined by thousands and thousands of flights over years being operated without issues, rather than the airline managing to operate a handful of flights with employees without having issues.

    In other words, no individual flight should make us feel confident about the 737 MAX, but rather its cumulative performance over time should.

  3. Being they are so safe and comfortable Please put Doug Parker and family on the flights to nowhere not the American Flight Teams

  4. I’m old enough to remember issues with the DC-10 in Chicago, Paris, and Sioux City. Once the issues were identified, the jet returned to service. My parents were of the generation of the Comet. Again, once the weaknesses were identified, the jet returned to service.

    The MAX will fall into the same scenario. The issues have been identified, remediation performed. Eventually, passengers and crews will regain trust in the airframe.

    Unfortunately, all of the above were the result of hubris, ignorance of new technology, or shortcuts. These are items that can never be accepted in aviation without major consequences.

  5. If they were confident, they’d have the entire executive team on one of these, instead of ground dispatchers

  6. Looks like American just found a way to reduce headcount, 172 employees at a time…

    But more seriously, while I understand that American is trying to convince passengers about the safety of these planes, I agree with you Lucky, anyone who doesn’t accept the formal FAA certifications aren’t going to be convinced by a handful of flights to nowhere. They’ll require probably several years of regular service with no incidents.

    But this is even more stupid, because, why put any passengers on these flights at all? It’s not like they influence whether the plane will crash. All you really need are the pilots. If you want to simulate the weight of a fully loaded plane, just put a bunch of crash test dummies on there, and let the pilots gain experience with real world flying. If there are people that don’t believe the rewritten simulators are enough to ensure that pilots are able to handle these aircraft, then perhaps having each pilot have say 5-10 takeoffs and landings under their belt before passenger service begins might be considered helpful to ease passengers’ concerns. But why put anyone else on these flights to nowhere?

    Overall, it just doesn’t seem to make sense. I agree that the best way is to simply introduce the plane, allow passengers who don’t want to fly on it to switch to a different flight without charge, and after a few years of (hopefully) uneventful service, most people won’t care anymore.

  7. I flew the Max twice the week before the second crash.
    Boing previous CEO had guaranteed the airplane was 100% safe.
    I do not trust Boing and I also do not trust the FAA.
    What will happen to the trust in aviation if another Max crashes in the future ?

  8. If they really wanted to win back the consumer’s trust, AA could have removed 12 economy seats, added IFE, larger bathrooms, and a galley that can heat up food…. but nope, just tours at some airports.

  9. I guess they’re flying the planes to get more pilots current and employees don’t count as paying passengers so someone in AA’s inept marketing department probably thought this was a good idea

  10. I think it’s a good move, especially if Parker were to fly on the first flight along with the other AA volunteers. It shows that the leadership and employees are confident in the aircraft. These aren’t test flights to see if the fixes work, Boeing and the FAA have already done that work (test flights were shown on National News outlets recently). If you subscribe to the theory that the MAX has to fly a million hours without incident before you trust that the corrective actions are valid, then nothing in the interim will convince you including these AA flights to nowhere.

    The publicity will be helpful for AA but more importantly, especially in this time of horrendous hardship for the airline industry (where morale is understandably low), it says “We’re back!” I’d be the first in line if I worked at AA. If they want a customer volunteer, I’d go.

  11. BE CAUTIOUS! Currently the FAA and EASA have agreed to some temporary cosmetics on Boeing’s side.

    The actual necessary hardware upgrade to the 737MAX to make it really save only has to come several years later.

    This is spoke by an aerospace engineer from the other side of the pond.

  12. Interesting how there were far more flights in the Western world with western standards and western pilots – all without crashes.
    Maybe the plane had problems in its poorly designed software and sensors. But maybe the training of the pilots has been proven to be of greatest importance.

  13. No, thank you. Boeing has stage 4 management cancer. I’ve completely lost trust in the company. I imagine approximately 346 families who would likely use differing adjectives in describing their degree of trust in the future of any Boeing aircraft.

  14. CDCadvised not to travel over holidays and yet little changed. Travel on 737 MAX will be the same. I listened to CDC and did not travel and I will listen to FAA and will fly 737MAX. FAA. Has learnt their lesson.

  15. @Alex
    It’s outrageous that you would even raise the possibility of blaming the pilots for the crimes committed by Boing and the FAA.
    Shame on you !!!

  16. 99% of the flying public doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the “Max.” This is to shut the press up. I’d fly the plane in a second and would feel much more safe on the Max the highways.

  17. I would feel completely safe on a Max. The most dangerous part of the trip will be the drive to the airport. I agree with Alex. Flying with a U. S. trained pilot is a large advantage. I hope you all boycott the Max. More room for me.

  18. The plane is too big. Lazy Boeing should have started from scratch. I have flown an AA Max (maxed) from Miami to Barbados in F and found it to be thoroughly unremarkable.

  19. I will fly on one of those flights…..My son is a captain on the 37, and might be on the flights between NY and Miami….probably will be one of the safest planes flying…….

  20. 2 reasons to wait. It is Boing trying to push the Max without proper training of pilots. FAA APPROVING AN AcceLeRATED schedule. And AA ORDERING cabin designed treating passengers as Sardines. It will be years before I fly the MAX.

  21. Given that the same agencies which previously approved the Max are now approving it again and we know that these agencies to a degree left it up to the manufacturer to certify their own product (great tax money savings I guess) I believe transparency would be a better way to instill consumer confidence. Naturally I don’t mean we’ve made improvement to MCAS blah, blah, blah. That tells consumers nothing. I’d like to know how pilots feel about the Max without the carriers knowing who the pilots are.

  22. Honestly, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and his family have yet to do the tour on the new 737 Max around the country, so sorry I am not interested at all. Also, unless they decide to make the planes tolerant for passengers, I have no interest in flying these AA 737 Max. There is no more personal TV. The seats look uncomfortable in all cabin classes. If I am going to fly the Max again, it won’t be American. I basically will avoid AA 737 Max because of this Oasis interior. Honestly American Airlines should have remove another row of seats in coach during the grounding. Demands for travel will not be back anytime soon. They mind as well make the planes more comfortable.

  23. Make a surprise guest appearance on one of these flights dougie. And use the lav in flight. Mmmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmmm mmmmm mmmm.

  24. It may interest @Alex & @Bob May to know that Ethiopian Airlines had operated B757/767’s ,B777’s,
    MD 11’s ,B787’s for years without incident. The max is no more complex an aircraft to operate than practically any of those. The deceased Captain had over 8,000 hrs on 737NG’s ,so your assertion that they had issues because they weren’t American is absurd.
    When the 737-200’s experienced rudder hardover issues, those happened mainly in the USA,does that mean the pilots were incompetent because they were American.
    The American Airlines A300-600R that crashed after departure from JFK ,because the pilot flying applied too much rudder force & broke the tailplane,was flown by Americans too!!
    Crashes happen because of a tradgic sequence of events,race has nothing to do with it.Poorly trained pilots appear worldwide,including America!

  25. They should fly enough number of times with Boeing employees, the developers of the software and their families before putting their own or the general public.

  26. Those are sold out flights. Now AA staff asking for more flights from Dallas and Miami so they can have chance to experience max . I highly appreciate AA for doing this . I will fly in that aircraft any time . Yesterday news out where AF may order 100of Max flight instead of 220. Whether you all like it or not 737 max gonna fly up and down everywhere. The only option for you guys to drive away .

  27. “ ignorance of new technology”

    Can u blame the airlines on a thing Boeing fully hid from their view just so MAX wouldn’t be deemed materially different enough from NGs for FAA to force a different type cert and allow that to undermine a good chunk of the value proposition Boeing was so desperate to promote and stop the leakage to Airbus ?

    I have no issue with innovative solutions to problems but I do take issue with their execs overruling engineers just so they could continue with their musical chairs…

    not to mention staying within the ivory corporate tower around The Loop that is convenient to neither Everett nor Charleston to have any oversight on ops.

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