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In an “Axios on HBO” interview airing on Monday, Kelly defended the highly scrutinized Boeing plane, which the Federal Aviation Administration says will be allowed to fly again after certain modifications are made.
"We believe, based on very sound facts and judgment, that it is a very safe airplane," Kelly said.
The decision to rescind its grounding order follows a 20-month review by the FAA of the 737 Max, which has been grounded since March 2019, after crashes in 2018 and 2019 killed 346 passengers in total.
Southwest Airlines, which relied more heavily on the 737 Max than rival U.S. carriers, stands to benefit significantly from Boeing's return to the sky, according to the Swiss bank UBS.
While the decision is a huge win for Boeing itself, the Chicago-based company also draws revenue from sales of larger commercial jetliners and its military-contracting businesses.
Southwest does not plan to schedule 737 MAX flights until the second quarter of 2021, and will allow anyone uncomfortable with flying the aircraft to rebook their flight at no charge.
“We'll need to communicate. We'll need to explain. We'll need to have credible experts, like pilots who are in a position to explain. Whether people are, in turn, reassured is a different question,” Kelly said.
"Aviation is the safest way to travel and has been for decades. It is heavily, heavily regulated, and with very skilled people involved,” he added.