Following two accidents that killed 346, the Boeing 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March 2019. The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is nearing the end of its safety review recertification process for the MAX, and American Airlines anticipates being able to begin flying the airplane as soon as the end of December 2020.

Ethiopian crash scene in March 2019. Associated Press

American Airlines hs taken delivery of 24 737 Max planes and has 76 more on order.

American 737 MAX flights are now available for booking. American’s website shows 737MAX flights from Miami to New York on December 29. From what I’ve seen, American is not offering a lower price for 737 MAX flights.

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Many are still leery of an aircraft with the MAX’s record even with modifications that are being made to hopefully ensure a safe return to service. American says that it will allow passengers to change flights if they find out they are on a MAX. It is unclear how that will work in practice.

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737 MAX Boeing photo

American might not be the first airline to put the MAX back to work. According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), Air Canada has scheduled flights with the Max starting December 28 between three Canadian airports — Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal — and four US airports — Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Palm Springs, California.

In comparison, Southwest Airlines, which had more 737 Max jets (34) in service before the grounding than any other carrier, isn’t planning to have its 737 Max planes carry passengers until at least the second quarter of next year.

American 737 Max aircraft stored at Tulsa, OK International Airport. Reuters

To minimize passengers switching flights, American identifies the equipment (airline lingo for the type of airplane) used on its website. Further, American plans what might be described as a 737 MAX charm offensive.

According to the Dallas Morning News, American is mulling the idea of having static displays of the 737 MAX at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), and New York Laguardia (LGA) that would be hosted by American pilots and mechanics. The airline believes pilots and mechanics have the most credibility when it comes to convincing the public the MAX is safe to fly.

I agree with that. Last year I had a weather-related flight delay at Chicago (ORD). Passengers were given the option of getting off or staying onboard to wait it out. I stayed on the plane and was able to have a talk in the cockpit with the pilots about the grounding of the MAX. That flight was a 737-800 and those pilots had already had training on the MAX. They had concerns but were very gracious in explaining to this private pilot their belief that the MAX would be safe after it was recertified.

Aircraft tours and face-to-face conversations with pilots and mechanics are a great idea but won’t reach many people. To impact a broader audience, American is also thinking of giving the public the option of talking with pilots and mechanics by phones.

Final Thoughts

Of course plans for the 737 MAX return to service depend on recertification by the FAA and aviation authorities worldwide. That process nears completion as software updates and other modifications have already been implemented.

I will try to avoid flying on a 737 MAX for a year or two. As with all new aircraft models, flights within that time period are essentially a continuation of the flight test process. I would fly the MAX though when other options are less desirable. Even if defects remain, the chances of being on the flight that crashes are extremely small.

What are your thoughts about the 737 MAX? When will you feel like it is safe for you to fly?