Both caution and optimism are in order regarding Boeing's fixes to its Max 737 aircraft. American's CEO is one of the first airline execs to talk openly about passenger anxieties when the Max is given the green light to fly again.
The world’s largest airline is bracing for short-term passenger anxiety about flying on the Boeing Co. 737 Max, which was grounded in March after two deadly crashes in a five-month span.
“There may be some period of time” in which customers have misgivings, American Airlines Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said in an interview with NBC, which will be aired in full late Wednesday. “But we’ll work through that.”
Airlines will soon face the delicate task of coaxing passengers back onto Boeing’s best-selling jet, once the aircraft is cleared to return to the skies. The planemaker is finalizing an update to software implicated in both accidents, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is hosting global regulators at a meeting on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas, to discuss next steps.
“What we need to do is have the airplane be deemed airworthy, be back in service, have American Airlines pilots flying,” Parker told NBC’s Lester Holt in a passage of the interview that the broadcaster tweeted. “I know that if that’s the case, the airplane’s 100 percent safe, as will most of our customers. And over time, others will see that and come to the same conclusion.”
American has 24 of the grounded jets with more on the way. The Fort Worth-based carrier has removed the plane from its schedule through Aug. 19, and there’s no timetable for the aircraft to reenter service.
Asked how to convince passengers to get back on the Max once the grounding is lifted, Parker acknowledged that some wouldn’t immediately feel comfortable.
“We shall see,” Parker said. “I don’t know at this point, given the heightened level of interest in this and the news around it, that any amount of marketing would do that.”
The full interview is scheduled to run Wednesday evening on NBC Nightly News.
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Photo credit: American Airlines CEO Doug Parker poses for a portrait during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of five new gates inside Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago Illinois, U.S., on May 11, 2018. American Airlines will roll out the Boeing Max again if they're told its fully safe after fixes. Joshua Lott / Bloomberg