If a new plane model suffers two fatal crashes in less than a year, should you be afraid to fly on it?
Should you be afraid to fly the Boeing 737 MAX-8? On March 10, 2019, the 157 passengers of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 joined a small, tragic group and became the second victims of the new, “next-generation” plane in just 6 months. On the heels of these back to back tragedies, many fliers are beginning to wonder if they can feel safe aboard the 737 MAX-8. If you’re also concerned, this guide may help.
Should I Be Worried?
If you’re taking your cue from governmental aviation organizations, the answer is “maybe.” In wake of the second tragedy aboard an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX-8 on March 10th, both China and Indonesia have ordered all 737 MAX-8’s grounded until further notice as it still isn’t known if the accidents on Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air were due to similar issues. Other airlines, including Cayman Airways and Ethiopian Airlines have chosen to self-ground their MAX-8’s while they wait on further investigation.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration has not yet ordered these planes to be grounded and operators of the airline, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say that they intend to keep flying the new plane, despite the two tragedies. Other international airlines are following suit. In separate statements, Icelandair, Norwegian Airlines and WestJet all announced they would continue to operate their 737 MAX-8 aircraft for the foreseeable future.
How Can I Tell If I’ll Be Flying One of These Planes?
The most important thing to know is that your chances of finding yourself on a 737 MAX-8 plane are relatively low. As this model of 737 has only been around for a little while, as of January 2019, only 350 MAX planes have been delivered to airlines according to a sales sheet published by Boeing.
Among the major commercial airlines, Southwest Airlines has 31 in operation, United Airlines has 12 and American Airlines has 20. If you’re flying one of these airlines, you can check what airline you’ll be flying before you book your ticket. Most airlines publicize which aircraft is scheduled for any given route, but because each website puts this information in a different place, you have to know where to look.
On Southwest.com, after you put in your arrival and departure date, you can simply click on the hyperlinked flight number right above the scheduled departure and arrival times of your flight. A menu will then pop up and display the “Aircraft type” near the bottom.
On AA.com, the aircraft details are listed underneath the flight information, under the “Details” link. Click it and you will find the aircraft type right underneath the flight times. You can also find information on your flight’s amenities like power outlets and wi-fi availability.
United does not operate the 737 MAX-8, but it does fly a slightly larger variant, the 737 MAX-9. In 2018, the carrier noted service would operate between their hub cities of Houston and Los Angeles to select markets, including Anchorage, Austin, Honolulu, Orlando and Tampa. To find out if your flight is operated with one of the MAX 9 aircraft, click the “Details” tab near the United logo, right of the departure time, arrival time, number of stops and duration.
Icelandair operates the 737 MAX 8 out of their headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland, primarily on international routes to Europe. But the aircraft also flies to the United States, notably on their routes between the Icelandic hub and Cleveland, Ohio. To find out if your flight is aboard the 737 MAX-8, click on the “Show Flight Details” link underneath the flight time, duration, and flight number.
Norwegian currently operates three aircraft types, all manufactured by Boeing: the 737-800, the 737 MAX-8 and the 787 Dreamliner. Because of this, Norwegian does not disclose the aircraft type during the booking process. However, the airline announced the 737 MAX-8 would fly between two American airports to European destinations: New York Stewart International Airport (SWF) and T.F. Green International Airport (PVD) near Providence, Rhode Island. If you are aboard Norwegian departing from one of these airports, you may be flying aboard a 737 MAX-8.
According to CBC News, WestJet operates 13 737 MAX-8 airframes in their fleet. Some of those aircraft fly between Canadian destinations and the United States, including once-weekly service between Calgary, Alberta and Los Angeles.
To find out if your flight utilizes the 737 MAX-8, search for your flight on the WestJet website. From there, click on “Flight Details,” which will take you to a pop-over window showing the total trip duration, and an illustration of the airplane scheduled for the flight.
Now that you know how to spot which plane you’re flying, deciding whether or not you feel safe flying a 737 MAX-8 plane is up to you.