March 14, 2019
Travel agents and websites have begun to respond to consumer concerns by rerouting passengers on other aircraft after the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX planes by nations worldwide—including China, Singapore, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Canada, and the European Union—Reuters reports (and finally, the USA).
Several news outlets, including MSNBC, reported that the United States had not grounded its 737 MAX aircraft, following a call received by President Donald Trump from Boeing President Dennis Muilenburg, imploring him to let them fly. (Editor’s note: That was true until late afternoon on March 13, when the president bowed to pressure and grounded the Boeing 737 MAX planes in the United States.)
However, U.S. passengers have the same fears as their global counterparts: Two of the new Boeing aircraft have crashed within the past five months—both just moments after takeoff—including Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight JT610 on October 28.
The pilots of both flights had reported a technical issue when the controls were switched to autopilot after departure. Indeed, according to flight data from the earlier Lion Air incident, the aircraft took a sudden downward turn after the autopilot was switched on and made a sharp nosedive into the sea.
Boeing, itself, has commented, “[We are] deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team. A Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”
Among the U.S. carriers that operate the Boeing 737 MAX are Southwest (with 34 of the planes), American Airlines (24), and United (14).
But, whether or not they are ticketing and flying, U.S. travelers do not want to board the aircraft until authorities worldwide have said it is good to go. Therefore, travel agents and websites are moving fast, Reuters says.
Kayak.com, part of the Booking.com stable, was the first big travel search website to say it would modify search filters to allow customers to exclude particular types of planes from queries, Reuters notes.
“We’ve recently received feedback to make Kayak’s filters more granular in order to exclude particular aircraft models from search queries,” a spokesperson for the website told Reuters in an email responding to questions., adding, “We are releasing that enhancement this week and are committed to providing our customers with all the information they need to travel with confidence
Several travel agents said they were dealing with the cancellation of flights due to the grounding of nearly two-thirds of the Boeing 737 MAX planes in most countries outside North America, prompting a wave of re-bookings.
Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which manages travel for big global businesses, said some clients wished to explore the possibility of temporarily restricting travel on Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.
U.S. travel firm Expedia, Germany’s Trivago and Indian online travel agents MakeMyTrip and Yatra did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment about the impact the crash is having on bookings.
According to Reuters, the twin crashes have spooked the airline industry and heaped pressure on Boeing, whose shares have plunged, wiping $25 billion off its market value in the space of less than three days.
Research contact: @Morrison1996