We have seen flights to nowhere, we have also seen airport experiences with passengers boarding aircraft and then deplaneing. Those were ideas airlines had, in order to put their stranded fleets to some use. Now American Airlines comes up with a different non-flying experience. This time, it is to boost confidence in its MAX aircraft.
We’ve already discussed how airlines are adapting to Covid-19 and its implications. In addition to the above, American is remodelling and updating its cabin interiors. That of course involves existing models in its fleet, not the 737 MAX aircraft awaiting re-certification. But thinking outside the box can give people more ideas. Which is handy, because some members of the public may need convincing, when it comes to flying in the MAX.
The signs are that the FAA and other authorities will give the MAX the all-clear (for those MAX types that were previously operational), allowing it to fly again in the next month. American certainly think so and have already scheduled flights with the aircraft from the 29th of December. These will be between LaGuardia Airport in New York and Miami, lasting for a week only. But before this happens, American wants to fly the aircraft with employees on board, and place them at popular airports. Other airlines may hope for a quiet return to service for the troubled planes. Contrary to this, American wants the public to get a chance to visit them and get to know them and their crews.
A high profile affair?
It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to this idea. American’s pilot union advises caution against a PR campaign and emphasize the need for robust training. Externally and as far as the cabin is concerned, there probably isn’t much for the public to see, that would set the MAX apart from a 737NG. Aside from those engines, of course. Crucially, the airline wants the pilots and crews to be the ones that will drive this initiative and guide the public. “They’re the ones that… really have the credibility to explain the MAX“, said Alison Taylor, American’s chief customer officer.
We will have to wait to see how other airlines handle the introduction of their MAX fleet to the public. United and Southwest have both deferred any announcements until after the FAA has cleared the aircraft to fly. Boeing will no doubt be a keen observer as well, hoping to add more orders in its books. American has deferred its outstanding deliveries for 18 MAX aircraft (it already has 24) until 2024.
Observers are undecided as to how much “help” the process will actually require. Some fear that the public will be very negative towards it; others suspect that factors like seat density will loom much larger in people’s minds. In any case, American’s plans hinge on the MAX getting cleared to fly by mid-November. This will allow for one week of flights around the new year and the planned “meet and greet” before it. “We are seeing that finish line approach us and I think it’s a real finish line” said David Seymour, American Airlines’ chief operating officer.
Image by nickyhardinguk from Pixabay