Six days after the U.S. and Canada joined almost all other major countries in pulling Boeing’s 737 MAX jets from the skies, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has issued a statement on the two crashes that led up to the decision — the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
“Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone,” Muilenburg said in a videotaped statement. “Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we're taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX.”
According to Muilenburg, Boeing is gathering information from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines plane. Additional details will be released after approval by the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau.
Boeing, along with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and more governing bodies, are still searching for answers as to what exactly caused the two jets to crash — the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crashed into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crashed less than five months after that. Both were new aircraft.
“This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we'll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident,” Muilenburg said.
American carriers most affected by the jets are still being impacted as of Tuesday — American Airlines canceled 121 flights on Tuesday and Southwest canceled 85 flights, according to FlightAware (those cancellations are not all solely due to the 737 MAX ban). Those numbers follow the 164 cancellations by Southwest and 101 cancellations by American on Monday. Both American and Southwest are rerouting other aircraft and shifting its routes to try to cover for the absences.
United Airlines, which had a schedule of roughly 40 flights a day with the MAX jets, did not expect a “significant operational impact” when the news first broke and it has continued to operate mostly on or near schedule since last week. United canceled just five flights on Monday and only one so far on Tuesday.
Air Canada was one of the carriers most impacted by the decision to pull the MAX jets from the sky last week. The carrier was forced to ground all of its 24 MAX jets and had to account for the six new MAX jets that were expected to be delivered in March and April. On Tuesday, Air Canada said that it has adjusted its schedule through Apr. 30, covering 98 percent of its planned schedule, and is now looking to continue adjusting through July “to further optimize its fleet and re-accommodate customers.”
"The Boeing 737 MAX accounted for six percent of Air Canada's total flying, but there is a domino effect from removing the 737s from our fleet that impacts the schedule and ultimately will impact some customers. We have been working very hard to minimize that impact," said Lucie Guillemette, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Air Canada.
While most travelers who were impacted will just see an adjustment, those on routes that only MAX jets could serve, including Halifax and St. John’s to London Heathrow, will have service suspended.