Friday, September 6, 2019

Alaska Airlines will adjust to allay passengers' fears over 737 Max flights

Alaska Airlines says passengers anxious about flying on Boeing 737 Max jets once the global grounding is lifted will be able to rebook flights on other aircraft.

The SeaTac-based airline, the largest carrier on the West Coast, shared some details of how it will handle passengers with 737 Max anxiety a day after rival United Airlines said any of its fearful passengers will be allowed to rebook flights free of charge.

"We have a plan and will absolutely take care of our guests who have concerns," Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan told the Business Journal.

Alaska had anticipated the delivery of three Boeing 737 Max jets this year. But deliveries have been delayed since Boeing's newest single aisle jet was grounded in March following two crashes that killed 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Now, Alaska says it may only get one of the 737 Max jets it ordered delivered in 2019, with the rest in 2020. The airline expects to announce further details about it's handling of Max flights, including whether it will charge fees for rebooking, later this year after it takes delivery of its first Max.

"Other airlines will be resuming service with the Max with many more of the aircraft than us. Since we’ll begin flying the Max with only one plane after we receive our first delivery, we will have flexibility in making sure our guests are comfortable," Egan said.

Last month, Alaska revealed it can also acquire 37 additional 737 Max aircraft, with deliveries from 2021 through 2024, under aircraft option agreements with Boeing.

Alaska's situation is different than United's and Southwest's, which have both received and ordered dozens of 737 Max jets.

At a Cowen and Company investor conference this week, United Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella explained what the Chicago-based carrier's position will be when the Max resumes flying.

"If you get to the gate and it's not an airplane you want to fly on for whatever reason, if it's a Max, we'll put you on another flight," Nocella said.

CNN reported that Dallas-based Southwest would also offer passengers full flexibility and rebookings without charge.

American Airlines told CNN it hasn't finalized any policy for dealing with customers who don't want to fly the 737 Max, other than to explain to passengers that the airline and its pilots would not fly a plane they felt was unsafe.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)


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