American Airlines Is Planning Boeing 737 Max Tours as Ungrounding Nears
American Airlines wants to give tours of Boeing 737 Max aircraft at DFW International Airport and other locations before the beleaguered jets return to the skies more than 18 months of being grounded.
The Fort Worth-based airline, the second-largest U.S. owner of 737 Max jets, told employees at an internal meeting last week that it will host a series of events after the 737 Max is recertified as the carrier eases the plane — and the minds of customers — back into service.
“We’ll do some static displays of the aircraft here in DFW, Miami, LaGuardia where we’ll see some of the flying,” American Airlines chief operating officer David Seymour said in the meeting, according to an audio recording shared with The Dallas Morning News. “And then that static display will also be offered up to some of our customers as well so they can go and look at the aircraft.”
American Airlines spokeswoman Sarah Jantz confirmed the message to employees, but said it was “at a very high level.”
“Our plans are very tentative and timing is fluid,” Jantz said in an email. CNBC first reported the 737 Max tours.
Airlines such as Fort Worth-based American and Dallas-based Southwest are still eagerly awaiting the recertification of the Boeing 737 Max jets after the jets were grounded worldwide in March 2019 following two crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Despite the overabundance of planes due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on flying, airlines want the 737 Max back because it is about 25% more fuel-efficient than the predecessor 737 NG plane.
American has also tentatively scheduled the 737 Max for service between Dec. 29 and Feb. 4, flying roundtrip between Miami and LaGuardia Airport in New York.
While the Federal Aviation Administration has been cautious and deliberate about the recertification process, Administrator Stephen Dickson took a test flight on the plane earlier this month and the agency is approaching several key milestones that could lead to its recertification soon, including fixes to the problematic MCAS software that was a factor in the two crashes.
Comments on pilot training for the 737 Max recertification are due on Nov. 2, but Seymour anticipated that the plane could be ungrounded the week before Thanksgiving, he said in the meeting.
“Our Boeing 737 MAX return to service plans remain highly dependent on the FAA’s recertification process,” Jantz said. “We remain in contact with the FAA and Boeing on the certification process and we’ll continue to update our plans based on when the aircraft is certified.”
American is also planning a series of non-customer flights and CEO Doug Parker has said he plans to fly on the jet before it is reopened to the public.
Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association that represents American pilots, said the union hasn’t been informed of any plans for displays and tours of the 737 Max.
“We are just focused on the task at hand, which is making sure the training and the issue brought up are safe and finalized,” Tajer said.
American Airlines chief customer officer Alison Taylor said in the meeting that union pilots and mechanics would be participating in phone calls, videos and on-the-ground tours to help customers feel safer about the plane.
She also said customers booked on 737 Max flights will be notified so they can change plans if desired.
“So we’re going to continue that building of confidence for the Max launch and, of course, notifications for customers who were actually on the Max, so if they wish to move to another aircraft type that they can as well,” Taylor said in the meeting.
Tajer said the company has scheduled training for the 737 Max in December after pushing back training set for November. That training includes two days of instruction, such as a two-hour simulator session for all Max pilots.
On top of the two dozen 737 Max jets that American owns, the carrier has orders for another 18 Max jets for 2021. The company said last week that it had secured the right to defer orders on eight of those planes.
“Based on what we’re hearing that would allow for an ungrounding sometime in the month of November,” CEO Doug Parker said last week in a call with investors and reporters. “If that holds true, we’ll likely have the aircraft up in service a month or so after that — so potentially by the very end of December. But it all remains to be seen and we’re incredibly flexible in terms of any type of time, it’s just as we have done … over the course of the last year or so.”
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said he anticipates the 737 Max will be back flying for the airline in the second quarter of 2021.
(c)2020 The Dallas Morning News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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