American Airlines has responded to earlier reports that the carrier is planning to downplay the branding of its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft before reintroducing the planes to service.
Instead, a spokesperson for the airline tells Fox News that the airline is specifically aiming to provide passengers with as much “transparency and visibility” as possible regarding the aircraft.
American Airlines is currently planning to reintroduce Boeing 737 Max jets to service in late December, on the condition that the FAA deems it safe to do so. The planes, of which there are two models (Max 8 and Max 9), were grounded in March 2019 following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 157 people. A separate Lion Air flight, also operated on a Boeing 737 Max aircraft, had crashed into the Java sea the previous October, killing 189.
At the time of the groundings, reports indicated that a problem with a new flight control automation system would point the aircraft’s nose downward, leaving pilots fighting to regain control.
Following its investigations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working with Boeing on recertifying the aircraft and approving its return to service, but “only after FAA safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards,” the FAA said in a statement obtained by Reuters in October.
More recent reports suggest that a number of airlines may attempt to downplay the “MAX” branding on their fleets, although American Airlines disputes that they are attempting to do so. Instead, the airline reiterated that information regarding the type of aircraft will be made available to passengers upon booking.
Travelers also won’t be rebooked on a Boeing 737 Max aircraft should they need to be automatically accommodated, American Airlines said in October. Customers needing reaccommodation — but who knowingly booked flights on a Boeing 737 Max — will also be rebooked on other aircraft types automatically.
“If they don’t want to travel on a MAX, they won’t have to,” a representative for the airline told Fox News on Tuesday, adding that there will be "flexibility in place for customers who do not want to travel on 737 MAX."
American Airlines did, however, admit that it had removed references to the specific MAX models in safety cards that will be provided to passengers on those planes, but alleges that the move was not an attempt to obscure this information from passengers. Rather, the airline said the move was part of a “fleet harmonization” project that began in 2017, which aims to streamline the safety information cards for all of American’s Boeing 737 aircraft — MAX or not. American Airlines further said that, when this project began in 2017, the carrier hadn’t even incorporated its MAX aircraft into service.
A representative for the airline confirmed that American is doing the same for its entire Airbus A321 fleet, as well.
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Still, Reuters reported on Monday that other carriers may try to obscure the “MAX” branding on their fleet once the planes are allowed to return to service, citing an industry insider who claimed the “MAX” terminology would be used “less frequently” in the coming years.
To their point, Reuters pointed to a recent news release issued by Air Canada which refers to the planes as “737-8” aircraft, with the word “MAX” only appearing in the footnotes. Enter Air, based out of Poland, had also referred to the plane as a “737-8” in August, according to the outlet.
A representative for Boeing was not immediately available to comment.
American Airlines, meanwhile, is planning to re-enter the planes into service in late December as long as all goes well with FAA recertifying aircraft and giving approval. The carrier will start by operating one flight per day — from Miami International Airport to LaGuardia Airport and back — between Dec. 29 through Jan. 4, after which point the carrier will review its plans for continued operation past Jan. 4.
“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 said in October.