American Airlines employees, including top executives, and journalists are invited aboard one of five flights on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. As the Airlines is starting fights with Boeing 737 MAX aircraft ahead of the airplane’s return to passenger services at the airline later this month.
The move comes soon after the FAA lifted a nearly-20-month grounding of the type, which was initiated after two fatal crashes in six months from late 2018 through the spring of 2019.
“We know that restoring our customers’ confidence in the 737 MAX starts with ensuring our own team members are comfortable. That’s why, leading up to the aircraft’s return to scheduled service Dec. 29, we’ll operate five 737 MAX flights, exclusively for team members,” American wrote in a letter to employees.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority at American,” American said in a statement. “It’s at the center of every decision we make. It is with this standard and commitment that we will return the Boeing 737 MAX to service now that the aircraft has been recertified by the FAA.”
Before those flights began, though, American CEO Doug Parker, along with his wife, American President Robert Isom and others fly on of the MAX’s first flights back. The flight took off from an American Airlines maintenance facility in Tulsa, Okla.
“I’ve long said that when American Airlines pilots – who are the best in the business – are comfortable and confident in flying the MAX, so am I. So today, along with my wife Gwen, American’s President Robert Isom and many others, we boarded the MAX at our Tulsa maintenance base with the utmost peace of mind,” Parker said in an Instagram post commemorating the flight.
“Customers will see the MAX slowly phased into service starting at the end of December with a daily roundtrip from Miami. Until then, many thanks to American’s pilots, flight attendants, Tech Ops team and safety experts who worked tirelessly to get this right for the flying public,” Parker added.
American is set to be the first commercial airline to resume services of the 737 MAX in the world – the FAA was among the first regulators to lift its MAX grounding, and no airline has yet launched flights. American’s MAX services will resume on Dec. 29 between Miami and New York’s LaGuardia airport.
The recent flights come as one of many attempts to regain customer confidence in the 737 MAX. While the aircraft was still grounded, multiple airline CEOs, besides just Parker, pledged to fly on the MAX once it was re-certified to prove their confidence in the aircraft.
American will also be offering passengers the opportunity to tour 737 MAX airplanes and to ask pilots and mechanics questions about the type; the latter offering can happen either at in-person or virtual events for cautious passengers concerned about the coronavirus pandemic.
American is launching pilot training this week to match updated requirements by the FAA. Previous requirements only required pilots to complete two days of iPad training to upgrade from 737NG to 737 MAX planes, but new regulations require both computer-based and full-motion simulator training before pilots, even those rated in the 737NG or earlier models, can fly the MAX. Previously, pilots could transition between 737 sub-types without any additional simulator training, a trend Boeing had hoped to continue when it was first developing and selling the MAX for much of the 2010s.
American will clearly note to passengers that they are booked on a MAX. Those passengers who are especially concerned about the aircraft will be able to switch to a flight on a different aircraft.