North American carriers express confidence in MAX; union wants probe

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Updated on 12 March

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) is calling on the FAA to temporarily ground the Boeing 737 MAX fleet in the United States “out of an abundance of caution”, following the 10 March crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 minutes after takeoff, and the preceding 29 October 2018 crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 after takeoff.

“This is about public confidence in the safety of air travel,” said Sara Nelson, AFA president. “The United States has the safest aviation system in the world, but Americans are looking for leadership in this time of uncertainty. The FAA must act decisively to restore the public faith in the system. Again, we caution everyone to not jump to conclusions and not interrupt the integrity of the investigations.”

This follows Nelson’s 10 March plea for the FAA to investigate the MAX.

The AFA-CWA represents flight attendants at 20 airlines, including Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. Neither carrier operate the 737 MAX 8. Alaska will, however, introduce service with the MAX 9 variant in a few months, while United has been flying the MAX 9 variant since 2018.

American Airlines has 24 737 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet, and in operation. Seeking to assuage the safety concerns of some of its members, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants – which represents flight attendants at American – sought guidance from management. APFA National President Lori Bassani said in a statement that management has indicated the airline “will follow the normal fear of flying procedures. It is important for you to know that if you feel it is unsafe to work the 737 MAX, you will not be forced to fly it.”

Civil aviation authorities in Europe, the UK, Australia and Singapore have joined Chinese and Indonesian regulators in grounding the 737 MAX, and the numbers of airlines and jurisdictions refusing to allow the aircraft to be flown continue to grow. The FAA in a statement said it is closely monitoring developments in the Flight 302 crash. However, the agency has not grounded the MAX.

Indeed, the FAA has issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX operators, and North American carriers have expressed that they believe the aircraft is airworthy.

Some passengers who are scheduled to fly on 737 MAX aircraft are expressing their fears on social media, asking various operators if they will ground the type.

Southwest Airlines operates 34 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Asked by Runway Girl Network if the carrier is providing any aid to passengers who want to rebook their MAX flights, a Southwest spokeswoman said: “We don’t have any changes planned to our operational policies or procedures.”

Our heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the passengers and Employees on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

As Southwest operates a fleet of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, we have been in contact with Boeing and will continue to stay close to the investigation as it progresses.

We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft.

American Airlines in a statement, says: “American Airlines extends our condolences to the families and friends of those on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. At this time there are no facts on the cause of the accident other than news reports.

“Our Flight, Flight Service, Tech Ops and Safety teams, along with the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), will closely monitor the investigation in Ethiopia, which is our standard protocol for any aircraft accident. American continues to collaborate with the FAA and other regulatory authorities, as the safety of our team members and customers is our number one priority. We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry.”

WestJet is telling passengers that its existing change/cancel policy is still in place.

Air Canada has operated the 737 MAX 8 since 2017 and currently has 34 in its fleet. “These aircraft have performed excellently from a safety, reliability and customer satisfaction perspective,” said the carrier on Twitter.

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Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was a scheduled flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya. It crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.

Less than six months earlier, on 29 October 2018, Lion Air flight JT 610 lost communication after takeoff from Jakarta. The aircraft sank into the Java Sea with 189 people on board.

Boeing had planned to unveil its new 777X widebody on 13 March, but it cancelled the event following the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 crash.

“Boeing is deeply saddened by the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident and our focus is on supporting our customer. In light of this, we are postponing the 777X external debut on March 13 and the related media events. We will look for an opportunity to mark the new plane with the world in the near future,” said the airframer.

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