Boeing tries to reassure on this plane, grounded since two accidents which caused the death of 346 people.
Boeing began airing 12-second videos on September 12, 2019, in which employees praised the safety of its planes, hoping to reassure the 737 MAX, who had been grounded since two accidents that killed 346 people.
“Safety is at the heart of our business. Hundreds of engineers are working to make sure this plane is 100% ready. When the 737 MAX goes back into service, I’ll be on board with my family, “Jennifer Henderson, head of the 737 test pilots, says in front of the camera in one of the clips.
On a Facebook page of Boeing fans where it airs, negative comments flock.
Stall system in question
“Well, I guess she could not say it’s dangerous,” says a member, whose comment echoes the herculean task ahead of Boeing as the aircraft manufacturer tries to regain confidence as well. civil aviation authorities than the general public, seven months after the accident of an Ethiopian Airlines MAX causing the death of its 157 occupants.
As in the crash of Lion Air in Indonesia in October 2018, which had made 189 dead, it was the MCAS anti-stall system that had been implicated.
The date of return to service is still uncertain, even though Boeing, which has still not submitted a modified version of the system to the regulators, wants it to be before the end of the year.
“The 737 MAX is, for now, a ‘non-grata airplane’. A plane that people do not want to take, “says Henry Harteveldt.
For this leader of the San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research, “travellers are not only afraid of the 737 MAX, but they are also terrified of it”.
Only 19% of business travellers and 14% of leisure travellers would happily take the 737 MAX within six months of returning to the sky, according to an Atmosphere survey.
Nearly half of the 2000 respondents say they are even willing to pay more to avoid the MAX.
Faced with this distrust, airlines are adapting.
“We will put on other flights, at no additional cost, people who do not want to travel in a MAX,” says one at United Airlines, owner of 14 aircraft of this type.
American Airlines, which owns 24 MAX, has said that its leaders and employees will be the first to travel on this plane once it will be allowed to fly again.
The setbacks of the MAX have swept more than a century of history for Boeing, marked in particular by the triumph of the 747, nicknamed “Queen of the skies”.
“Half of the business travellers we surveyed and 55% of leisure travellers consider Boeing irresponsible, arrogant and not sure,” says Harteveldt.
According to an online survey of the website Airfarewatchdog.com, only 7% of respondents say they are ready to ride in a MAX if they had no choice.
Questioned by AFP, the aircraft manufacturer refers to statements made in August by his boss. “We are aware that the bond of trust has been broken in recent months and we are working hard to restore it,” said Dennis Muilenburg.
A bond of confidence started a little more Friday with the revelation that potentially harmful documents were hidden from investigators for several months.
Boeing reports that it conducted 1447 flight test hours on 13 October with modified MCAS. Mr. Muilenburg personally took part in two of these tests.
From late September to mid-October, the group also invited airline pilots to simulator training and information sessions in Miami, London, Istanbul, Shanghai and Singapore.
“Do not miss it anymore”
“Boeing has no option but to stop missing,” says Tracy Stewart, a journalist with Airfarewatchdog.com.
If the road to reconquest seems bogged down, Boeing can be comforted by the fact that a large part of travellers do not look at the type of plane in which they will travel at the time of booking their ticket.
“The majority of people who travel on commercial aircraft (…) are more concerned with getting a seat lane and hope that there will always be room in the luggage compartments to store their carry-on luggage,” says John Dekker who runs the online tour operator Surf City Travel.
Boeing, however, has a narrow window to rectify the shot, experts agree, arguing that a video explaining the changes made in the 737 MAX to make it safer would be one of the best ways to restore credibility.
“We have to guarantee consumers that it will not happen again. Point bar! Says John Dekker.