United’s CEO Will Be On First 737 MAX Flight

Filed Under: United

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded since mid-March, and there have been a lot of questions about when the plane will be back in the air (the FAA now says it could be flying again as early as late June). Last week we learned that Boeing completed the software update we’ve been waiting for on the plane.

The 737 MAX certification process is an uphill battle

The next step is for the 737 MAX to be certified by relevant authorities globally. That may be more of a challenge than initially expected, given what has come out regarding the initial certification process of the 737 MAX. It’s anyone’s guess if the plane will once again be flying within a week, a month a year, or… well, who knows.

One thing is for sure — once the 737 MAX is back in the air, Boeing and airlines will have to work hard to convince passengers the plane is safe to fly. Not just because the 737 MAX had two crashes, but because the whole process that led to the plane being certified to begin with was questionable.

In other words, why should consumers trust Boeing and the FAA telling us that the plane is safe to fly when they said exactly the same thing before two planes crashed, and when they were rallying against the plane being grounded to begin with (shortly before the plane was grounded, Boeing’s CEO even called President Trump begging him not to ground the plane)?

What United’s CEO says about the 737 MAX

It’s interesting to see how airline executives are talking about the 737 MAX. Some airlines have invested billions of dollars in these planes. So while I don’t question that safety is their top priority, they also have a big incentive to get these in the skies as soon as possible, and for customers to be comfortable flying them.

Yesterday United CEO Oscar Munoz said he plans to be on the first United Boeing 737 MAX flight, once the plane is back in service. That’s certainly a nice gesture, and goes a long way to showing his confidence in the plane. As he said:

“Just because somebody says it’s safe, you as the flying public aren’t just going to get on the aircraft.”

I’ve also asked in the past how airlines will handle situations where passengers find themselves booked on a 737 MAX and want to rebook on another flight. Munoz says that “if people need any kind of adjustments, we will absolutely rebook them.”

We’ll have to wait and see how that works in practice, but I think a policy like this is vital at all airlines flying the 737 MAX. Many people are scared of flying to begin with, and to have the most modern jet out there have two crashes just months apart is a perfectly valid reason to be concerned.

What American’s CEO says about the 737 MAX

NBC’s Lester Holt sat down with American CEO Doug Parker recently as well. While Parker doesn’t go so far as to promise waivers for passengers or to say he’ll be on the first flight, he does say he has confidence in Boeing, and if American pilots are comfortable flying the plane so is he.

He acknowledges how bad this whole thing has been for the aviation community, and also acknowledges that it’s understandable that people will initially be hesitant to fly this plane again.

Perhaps most interesting are his comments regarding American’s product (which has little to do with the 737 MAX). A few of my favorite quotes:

“Our product at the same price is much better than you’re going to find on other airlines charging similar prices.”

“We listen to our customers all the time. We are working really hard to make sure our product is improving.”

“We’re making enormous investments in customer service and brand new airplanes like this.”

“In general what our customers really value, and always have and always will, is reliability.”

Bottom line

Even once the 737 MAX is back in the skies, airlines will have their work cut out for them convincing passengers that they should fly the plane. I think United is on the right track by putting their CEO on the first flight and also giving passengers flexibility to change flights if they’re booked on the 737 MAX.

We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out…

  1. “Our product at the same price is much better than you’re going to find on other airlines charging similar prices.”

    That’s hilarious, he obviously hasn’t been on Delta which has a far superior product to AA in all classes of service.

  2. Americans have very short memories, especially given that the MAX crashes occurred overseas. Most travelers pay little or no attention to aircraft type either at booking or during travel, and that is unlikly to change. There will undoubtedly be a few high profile situtions where people make a huge deal and it makes news, but once the plane is recertified 99.9% of travelers will simply move on.

  3. Dennis Boeing and the head of the FAA should be subjected to a congressional investigation. Their unscrupulous ways endangered many lives across the world and brought much distress to a proud, longstanding American company.

  4. Should Delta run an ad campaign based on this? “Fly Delta. We don’t have 737 MAX planes, and we’re not planning on buying them”

  5. Everyone made the same comments when the 787 was grounded due to the battery issue – that has obviously not been the case. The A320 suffered a crash during a fly by at the Paris Air Show – that was ruled an automation failure as well, and the 320 is now one of the most popular aircraft around. Cheap fares and short memories will win out.

  6. Will Mr. Munoz be flying in a Y- to truly understand and appreciate the full range of offerings United has?

  7. @JohnSD23

    It was at the Habsheim Airshow in Mulhouse, not Paris. And the cause has long been the subject of debate. The official report found no evidence of mechanical or electronic failure. The pilots were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. I don’t think you can draw comparisons between this and the Max crashes.

  8. I am from Turkey. When chernobyl exploded, our shores got hit by extreme levels of radiation. Nearby the affected areas, farmers used to grow tea. All those products got contaminated. To ease the public’s mind, congressmen drank tea made out of those contaminated tea leaves on live TV. People believed them and consumed these contaminated products. Many died of cancer.. The Ceo flying onboard a 737 is the same thing. Do not be fooled by these companies. They only care about money and they feed on your blood like vampires. Never trust a company that is willing to put up a stunt like this to gain the favor of the public.

  9. @ismail do you mean Akbar Al Baker the CEO of Qatar Airways or the wide receiver for the Detroit Lions ?

  10. The more I hear from Doug and Oscar about both their product and strategy, the more convinced I am that, reputation wise, United will jump American by this time next year.

  11. It better be a middle seat assigned at check in, row 28, transcon flight, with a full bladder so he gets to queue up for those ‘space conscious’ lavs with the rest of us proles in steerage.

  12. My family and I won’t board if it’s 737 MAX -8 not until after 2 years of no issues whatsoever

  13. Kudos for Munoz for flying on the first UA 737 MAX flight. It would certainly give passengers more confidence in the plane. I do think that time will help 737MAX. For me, I’m a Delta flyer so not really an issue but if I do have to fly a 737 MAX, I’d only do so if there hasn’t been any incidents/issues with the plane for 6 months or so.

  14. I love all the feigned outrage from self-appointed aircraft safety experts on the intertoobs, out for Boeing scalps. Sure, Einstein.

    People don’t care. People don’t even know the difference between aircraft types. The flying public are idiots – as evidenced by all the foaming-at-the-mouth posts here.

    Planes will be full as soon as they start up. Count on it. Cheap fares are all they care about. Off to Las vegas and Orlando they will go, happily.

  15. In America it’s a “country of opportunities”. That means the public citizens and crooks/criminals can do anything. And they are protected with a 229 yrs old Constitution. As Jack mentioned “Don’t be fooled with these stunts from big corps or CEOs”. All they care is the Billion$ in their bank accounts. They don’t give a hoot about the people. If there’s a lawsuit against them for a few millions – that’s is small change for them. Like the settlement with Dr. Dao from the United Airline incident. In this country all citizens get screwed one way or another. Unless you’re a Politician and that’s another different perspective.

  16. Right now I would be very hesitant to get on a 737 Max 8 or 9. Jesus has only given us one life and we have to value it above the.profits of corporations. Most people have short memories. I still remember “no new taxes “. Put in some flight simulator training and reenact the crashes to see how pilots would handle it. Then more intense training. Then show us the data. No quick fix for this one. Not this time

  17. The bottom line will be the extent to which passenger reaction to the 737 MAX taking to the air again drives decisions on aircraft purchases looking ahead. If there is a generalized resistance, it will affect sales by Boeing in the medium to long term. I do think there will be a lot more people than usual paying attention to the aircraft assigned to a particular route. To most of us, it has long been a natural thing to do, but these tragedies will get more of the general public paying attention.

    I think we all (if we fly) in our gut realize “it could have been me” on one of those planes that went down.

  18. Didn’t realize Bernie Sanders trolled your comments section, Lucky… The banks! The banks!

  19. In the video, Parker said he and his family would be “among the first,” when the Max flies again. You can spin Parker’s comments any way you wish but his comments regarding AA’s newer fleet, in spite of the Max issues which aren’t AA’s fault, translate to better reliability. I’d much prefer to be on AA’s 787s than those 25 year old 767 dinosaurs DL uses as the backbone of its long haul fleet.

  20. The 737 MAX is pushing the airframes envelope. The 1960s technology is not a good match with latest jet engine abilities. In order to make this work there is a need for a 3rd person in the cockpit. Will the airline industry admit that the workload is unreasonable for a two man crew?

  21. Donna – Congrats on living out west or in the midwest then. AA is still utilizing the dinosaur 767’s on tons of flights from the east coast (no 787 bases out here). They fly 10+ hours to Europe, South America, shorter domestic runs, etc. They’re almost unavoidable over here.

  22. Have fun! I will never fly the max even for free. It seems more things are to be discovered.

    Bad bathroom, falls from the sky, and god knows what else

  23. I always check what type of aeroplane I fly in. My main issue is with certification. Transferring part of certification to Boeing staff cannot and will never, work. A non- Boeing person will already have personal pressures where he/she raises a technical issue in a generally hostile environment. Just imagine the position of a Boeing employee seconded to the FAA in a similar situation; that would be perceived as ratting and just does not, or ever will, work. The wagons will be pulled together in every sense.

  24. Ofcourse if it crashes in USA soil..terrorism will.not be discounted! Nothing is likely to happen on that first flight by laws of probaility.The United Airlines wil have to be on board on several Max flights chosen at random over several months flown in different parts if the world for the excercise of confidence to be effective.

  25. Nothing is likely to happen on that first flight by laws of probaility.The United Airlines Chief wil have to be on board on several Max flights chosen at random over several months flown in different parts of the world for the excercise of confidence to be effective.I wo der how USA will react if it cashes on the first flight after certification?

  26. These planes will have to fly with no incidents for a good amount of time before I will get on one. Personally, I like the Airbus 300s.

  27. The A320 series had severe teething problems losing a number of aircraft to what was reported to be ‘pilot error’ in their inception years. Luckily some incidents occurred in India and Asia. Scuttlebut was that the new ‘fly by wire’ technology had a few bugs that were worked out over the years without grounding the aircraft. Many respondents in this blog seem unaware of the initial history of the aircraft.

    The DC10 had some problems with single-redundancy hydraulic lines. How many crashed? How many died? It is still thought to be a very successful airplane but they changed the name to MD-11. I flew in it even after the crashes.

    Even the Q400 had some initial problems but these were more operational than design. It is now being flown everywhere and is my turbo of choice.

    The Comet had real problems but was still flown as a military version without problems by the RAF until recently.

    The 737 Max has been flying commercially since May 2017. Only recently have problems surfaced. I am not aware of any public reports to indicate that the problems experienced by Air Asia and Ethiopian were experienced by other pilots world-wide. Which proves nothing of course.

    So the problem(s) will be rectified before the next 737 Max leaves the ground. It just might then be the safest airplane in the skies. The reasons not to fly the Max will be more about the seating, washrooms and other amenities than its safety record once it is back in the skies.

    So people have short memories and all will be soon forgotten. Unless, of course, another incident happens which would be a total disaster for Boeing.

  28. The bigger issue is trust in the once-sacrosanct FAA certification process which has just gone through the shredder. Foreign airworthiness certification will be far more rigorous now, so do not expect the Max to be flying outside the YooSA anytime soon. Personally, I would not fly this thing without at least a year of flawless performance worldwide. And what self-serving crap from Parker and Munoz.

  29. United is growing on me, the last flights I had with them were great, they seem like a first class airline compared to AA recently, I really like their CEO….go United! Take AA’s spot!!

    Also im not gonna fly the MAX, no thanks.

  30. I think the CEO should fly coach from a crowded Houston airport to Chicago during light rain. That and have the typical C-crew who will abandon the plane and find a new flight route for the day the moment it gets delayed. Get the experience right.

  31. Being the first on a 1hr flight is nothing. It better be transcon at least. That said, with 2 brothers with aeroE degrees and ‘in the business’, the fix should be more than just software. If there aren’t hardware updates/additions (more sensors to develop quorum) I’ll be asking to fly a different plane (fly weekly) Thankfully not a southwest flyer who have tons of the MAX8. The plane SHOULD have gone thru the full process a NEW plane would b/c they’ve (Boeing) said they can overcome mechanical with software. I personally design/arch and have written software for over 2 decades, it’s going to have errors/issues. Relying on a single sensor (the other is used as failover) and also prone to issues/failing itself, there should be a minimum of 3 MCAS sensors (the hardware I talked about) and preferably 5. Boeing isn’t the only one at fault..the FAA should know better but having the DEEs paid by boeing and report to FAA (who USE to be FAA employees) is “a bit” sketchy. There are a LOOOOOT of changes needing to be done here…The should only be the START of a deeper investigation, but shaking the overall airline industry won’t allow for that to happen

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