I flew on Alaska for the first time since it stopped blocking middle seats and it was the closest to normal I’ve seen during the pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

  • Alaska Airlines is a growing mid-tier US carrier that’s been on the rise in recent years and expanding on both coasts.
  • Middle seats are no longer blocked but there’s still a big emphasis on social distancing.
  • Snacks and beverages are also offered to passengers, with the onboard experience largely normal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Alaska Airlines has been steadily expanding across the US in recent years since its acquisition of Virgin America, increasing its presence from coast to coast.

LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines - Airbus A320
An Alaska Airlines A320.

While its main sandbox is the West Coast, the airline now operates transcontinental flights from numerous East Coast cities. It’s not as big as the majors in the big four US airlines including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, but Alaska has been getting its name out there in a big way.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Middle seats on Alaska flights were blocked until January 7, the second-longest seat-blocking tenure of a major US airline behind Delta. Now, flights can be filled nearly to capacity in economy.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Here’s what flying Alaska Airlines is like during the pandemic.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Alaska’s primary hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was busier than I expected when I arrived for my Friday afternoon flight to Los Angeles. As the airport’s top carrier, many of those flyers would be flying Alaska.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The entire Alaska Airlines check-in, however, had been overhauled with new safety features like plexiglass partitions at the counters…

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Social distancing placards in queues…

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Hand sanitizer stations…

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

And wipe stations in between check-in kiosks. It was an impressive start to my trip on the airline.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

And before I even got to the airport, I was required to acknowledge a health agreement. Standard for most major US airlines now, I had to affirm that I haven’t tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days, hadn’t been exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and hadn’t exhibited symptoms in the past three days, in addition to agreeing to the airline’s mask policy.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The flight appeared to be largely empty and it was looking good that I’d have a row to myself. Alaska flies near-hourly between Seattle and Los Angeles so there was no shortage of flights available, even during the pandemic.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

I quickly got my ticket from the kiosk and headed to the gate. I hadn’t flown on Alaska since before the pandemic when I flew from New York to LA to get In-n-Out Burger, so I was excited to fly the airline once more.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Read More: I flew from New York to LA and back in a single day just to eat a cheeseburger and gawk at planes – here’s why I’d do it again

The same set of social distancing measures that I found at check-in were also at the gate, including more plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizing stations, and floor placards.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The airport also had its own social distancing agenda, blocking every other seat in the gate area with placards.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

But while I had hoped for an empty flight, it turned out that this afternoon flight to Los Angeles was very popular with airline employees and standby passengers. There were at least 25 people looking to jump on board this flight, potentially thwarting my chances of an empty row.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Boarding began around 30 minutes prior to departure with Alaska following its normal boarding procedure. Customers board with their assigned group, listed on their boarding passes.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

After pre-boarding, first class boards first followed by Alaska elites and those seated in “premium class.” Regular economy passengers in the back of the plane then board followed by those closer to the front. Basic economy flyers, regardless of seat location, board dead last.

Flying Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

More social distancing placards lined the jetway leading up to the aircraft. “Mind your wingspan” is Alaska’s slogan of choice for social distancing.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Flight attendants welcomed us as we filed into the Boeing 737 Max but nothing in the way of hand sanitizer or sanitary wipes were offered, as some other airlines are doing.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Walking past first class, however, I noticed each seat was given hand sanitizing wipes, a perk that economy class didn’t get.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

I later saw on the airline’s website that they were available “on request.”

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Source: Alaska Airlines

The plane was spotless, however, as is to be expected since this was a brand-new plane that only began flying for Alaska a few days prior.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska, like most airlines, disinfects aircraft using electrostatic spraying, or “fogging.”

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Delta, United, and American are ‘fogging’ their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus — here’s what that means

Aircraft are also cleaned by crews before each flight, the airline says.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Source: Alaska Airlines

The cleaning measures truly showed. I had no concerns whatsoever about the cleanliness of the plane.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

I chose seat 28F for the two-hour flight to Los Angeles, a window seat on the right side of the plane facing forward.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Everything from the seat area to the tray tables was spotless.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska even had some of its new safety protocols listed in this booklet with a website link where flyers could view the full spread of measures being taken by the airline to keep passengers safe.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

This flight would feature an in-flight drink and snack service with nine different hot and cold beverages on offer ranging from Coke to orange juice.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

The rest of the plane slowly filled up and Alaska’s boarding procedure meant the front filled out before the back. Those boarding last would have to walk through an entire plane full of people if they were seated in the back.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Flight attendants during the boarding process continually reminded passengers that they were “obligated” to wear a face mask.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

One flight attendant was also walking around with masks to give to flyers that needed.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Even the safety briefing included a reminder that wearing a mask while flying is now federal law. Passengers were asked to report any offenses to flight attendants.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

The flight departed with quite a few middle seats open. Alaska doesn’t currently block middle seats in regular economy as of January 7 so having any seats open was pure luck.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Flight attendants also worked to space passengers by moving them into empty rows. The aisle seat in my row, for example, was given to a passenger that was in a crowded row.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Soon enough, we were airborne and bound for Los Angeles.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Flight attendants quickly began the in-flight service, starting with snacks.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

The bag included a variety of items from pretzels to flaxseed chips.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Then the drink cart came around and gloved flight attendants distributed full beverage cans accompanied by a cup of ice and hand sanitizing wipes. Printed on the napkin was a message asking flyers to put their masks on between bites and sips.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Once the service was over, I took a walk around the plane and only found a few passengers flouting the mask rule. Compliance, for the most part, was good.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Alaska also isn’t afraid to ban passengers for not wearing a mask. Almost 450 flyers have been banned as of March 17.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Airlines have banned more than 2,500 passengers for not wearing masks — here are the carriers that have booted the most

The rest of the flight was spent enjoying the views of the West Coast as we headed towards Los Angeles.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Alaska, overall, has largely returned to normal when it comes to things like boarding and the in-flight service. I was surprised to see how much was on offer compared to other airlines.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

I was also impressed by the airline’s investment in social distancing measures at its Seattle hub, with everything from hand sanitizing stations to floor placards.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

And even though it meant I didn’t get the row to myself, I appreciated flight attendants being proactive in moving people around to distance flyers when possible.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

The routine flight down the coast was largely uneventful and soon enough, it was time to land in Los Angeles.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

After we landed, flight attendants reminded passengers to social distance when deplaning.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

But most passengers just wanted off and didn’t mind crowding the aisle, as is normal when flying regardless of whether there’s an ongoing pandemic.

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest just placed a landmark multibillion-dollar order for 100 of Boeing’s smallest 737 Max plane

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8
A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8.

  • Southwest Airlines just placed an order for 100 Boeing 737 Max 7 aircraft with options for 200 more.
  • The $10 billion deal is a victory for Boeing over Airbus and its A220 aircraft that was reportedly being considered.
  • The first 30 737 Max 7 aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2022.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines has settled on the Boeing 737 Max 7 as the successor of its Boeing 737-700 fleet, announcing a finalized order with the manufacturer on Monday for 100 aircraft and options for 155 more.

The deal brings Southwest’s new Boeing 737 Max order total to 349 aircraft consisting of 200 of the smaller Max 7s and 149 of the larger Max 8s, some of which are already flying passengers. An additional 270 Max aircraft of either variety are also available to Southwest, on option, between 2021 and 2031.

Boeing’s current list prices value the 100 aircraft at around $10 billion. Airlines, however, rarely pay list price and Boeing has been known to discount Max aircraft as a result of the grounding.

Whatever Southwest did pay, however, Boeing can declare victory over Airbus as the European manufacturer’s A220 aircraft was reportedly being considered by Southwest to be the replacement aircraft. Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways had alternatively chosen the Airbus aircraft, which boasts similar characteristics and cost savings when compared to the Max 7.

But Southwest’s decision comes as no surprise since the 737 Max 7 is the next-generation variant of the 737-700 that it’s replacing at Southwest and the airline doesn’t have to worry about inducting another manufacturer’s aircraft into its already streamlined fleet. Pilots already flying the 737 and 737 Max can fly the Max 7 with very little additional training and the same goes for mechanics tasked with servicing the fleet.

“This cost-effective order book with Boeing allows the company to maintain the operational efficiencies of an all-Boeing 737 fleet to support its low-cost, point-to-point route network,” Southwest said in a statement.

Southwest resumed flying the Boeing 737 Max on March 11 after an absence of nearly two years following the aircraft’s March 2019 grounding. By the end of April, as many as 261 Southwest Max flights will be flown daily, according to Cirium data.

The smaller Boeing 737 Max 7 has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as of mid-March, according to Reuters, a process delayed due to the aircraft’s grounding. Boeing had initially planned to certify the aircraft in 2019 after its first flight in 2018.

Read More: The 16 most outrageous things Boeing employees said about the company, 737 Max program, and each other in released internal emails

But FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, a former airline pilot, personally flew the aircraft during the recertification trials for the Max following its March 2019 grounding. Southwest is slated to be the first airline to fly the Max 7 with the first delivery scheduled for 2022 after its certification.

The Max 7 can seat as many as 172 passengers, according to Boeing, while flying the furthest of any Max variant thanks to its smaller size. Any route in Southwest’s current network can be flown by the Max 7 and new ones can be forged.

With a range of 3,850 nautical miles, city pairs like Denver-Honolulu, Boston-Anchorage, and even New York-London are possible should Southwest want to stretch the aircraft’s legs. The competing Airbus A220-300 boasts only a 3,400 nautical mile range and maximum seating of 160 passengers, according to Airbus.

Southwest will end 2020 with 729 aircraft, 68 of which are Boeing 737 Max 8s.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An influential airline exec is sounding the alarm on Boeing and its leadership over the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner scandals

Emirates Tim Clark
Sir Tim Clark, president of the Middle Eastern mega carrier Emirates.

  • Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, is concerned about Boeing’s continued issues on its newest planes.
  • Clark cited issues with the Boeing 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X aircraft in a recent interview.
  • The 737 Max was just ungrounded after issues with the aircraft’s software caused two crashes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Most airlines are ready to move on from Boeing’s 737 Max crisis following the plane’s 20-month grounding – but one executive continues to sound the alarm about the company’s performance in recent years.

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, criticized the manufacturer’s leadership and recent problems with three of its important planes in an interview with The Air Current published Tuesday. Specifically, Clark criticized Boeing’s 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X, all of which have been marred by safety concerns, quality control issues, and production delays.

The problem, he says, stems from Boeing’s board of directors.

“Culpability for the culture, strategy, direction, priority of that company rests with the Boeing board and nobody else, Clark told The Air Current. “And that’s where the buck should stop. And that’s where they need to get themselves sorted out.”

Clark has long been outspoken over the issues at Boeing, levying similar complaints in a January Reuters interview: “Clearly there were process and practices, attitudes – DNA if you like – that needed to be resolved from the top down,” he said at the time.

Boeing shuffled its top leadership amid the Max grounding, firing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and installing Dave Calhoun, a board member, as his replacement. But Clark said it wasn’t enough: “It is pointless shuffling the deck.”

“Boeing need to take a good hard look at themselves; I’m sure they have,” he continued.

Emirates operates hundreds of Boeing 777 aircraft and will be the first airline to take delivery of the upcoming 777X. The largest twin-engine jet aircraft in the world, the 777X has been delayed again until late 2023, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Emirates is also set to receive a 787 Dreamliner in 2023 following a 2019 order.

Both the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner have been under near-constant scrutiny in recent years following safety and quality control issues. The 737 Max, notably, causing the deaths of 346 passengers across two crashes due to a software issue.

Quality control issues at Boeing’s South Carolina plant have called the Dreamliner’s safety into question and prompted additional groundings. Boeing may have to spend additional hundreds of millions to resolve the issues.

Emirates doesn’t operate the 737 Max and has largely been spared of those issues. The plane returned to the skies in November, and has flown more than 2,700 flights since. Meanwhile orders have been pouring in from airlines including United Airlines, Ryanair, and Alaska Airlines.

Still, Clark remains a vocal critic of the aircraft as it returns.

“I regret having to say all this, but I kind of, I think it needs to be said, otherwise, we’re just going to move on our of the Max era, as if nothing happened,” Clark told The Air Current.

Only two Max flights have encountered issues since the ungrounding, and both were due to engine incidents unrelated to the faulty software that brought down the Max aircraft. An American Airlines flight, most recently, was forced to land with one engine shut down due to a mechanical issue.

Canada’s WestJet also scrapped a Boeing 737 Max flight after its pilots encountered an engine warning light that the airline said required an engine run, a spokesperson told CBC. The airline, which used the Max for flights as far as Hawaii and Europe prior to the grounding, has since resumed flights without issue.

Boeing declined to comment for The Air Current story and when asked by Insider about Clark’s concerns,

“I believe they still have work to do in Boeing to get themselves sorted out,” Clark told Reuters. “There is a top-down culpability and accountability and they need to recognize that.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Emirates’ president continues to slam Boeing and its leadership over the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner scandals

Emirates Tim Clark
Sir Tim Clark, president of the Middle Eastern mega carrier Emirates.

  • Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, is concerned about Boeing’s continued issues on its newest planes.
  • Clark cited issues with the Boeing 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X aircraft in a recent interview.
  • The 737 Max was just ungrounded after issues with the aircraft’s software caused two crashes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Most airlines are ready to move on from Boeing’s 737 Max crisis following the plane’s 20-month grounding – but one executive continues to sound the alarm about the company’s performance in recent years.

Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, criticized the manufacturer’s leadership and recent problems with three of its important planes in an interview with The Air Current published Tuesday. Specifically, Clark criticized Boeing’s 737 Max, 787 Dreamliner, and 777X, all of which have been marred by safety concerns, quality control issues, and production delays.

The problem, he says, stems from Boeing’s board of directors.

“Culpability for the culture, strategy, direction, priority of that company rests with the Boeing board and nobody else, Clark told The Air Current. “And that’s where the buck should stop. And that’s where they need to get themselves sorted out.”

Clark has long been outspoken over the issues at Boeing, levying similar complaints in a January Reuters interview: “Clearly there were process and practices, attitudes – DNA if you like – that needed to be resolved from the top down,” he said at the time.

Boeing shuffled its top leadership amid the Max grounding, firing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and installing Dave Calhoun, a board member, as his replacement. But Clark said it wasn’t enough: “It is pointless shuffling the deck.”

“Boeing need to take a good hard look at themselves; I’m sure they have,” he continued.

Emirates operates hundreds of Boeing 777 aircraft and will be the first airline to take delivery of the upcoming 777X. The largest twin-engine jet aircraft in the world, the 777X has been delayed again until late 2023, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Emirates is also set to receive a 787 Dreamliner in 2023 following a 2019 order.

Both the 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner have been under near-constant scrutiny in recent years following safety and quality control issues. The 737 Max, notably, causing the deaths of 346 passengers across two crashes due to a software issue.

Quality control issues at Boeing’s South Carolina plant have called the Dreamliner’s safety into question and prompted additional groundings. Boeing may have to spend additional hundreds of millions to resolve the issues.

Emirates doesn’t operate the 737 Max and has largely been spared of those issues. The plane returned to the skies in November, and has flown more than 2,700 flights since. Meanwhile orders have been pouring in from airlines including United Airlines, Ryanair, and Alaska Airlines.

Still, Clark remains a vocal critic of the aircraft as it returns.

“I regret having to say all this, but I kind of, I think it needs to be said, otherwise, we’re just going to move on our of the Max era, as if nothing happened,” Clark told The Air Current.

Only two Max flights have encountered issues since the ungrounding, and both were due to engine incidents unrelated to the faulty software that brought down the Max aircraft. An American Airlines flight, most recently, was forced to land with one engine shut down due to a mechanical issue.

Canada’s WestJet also scrapped a Boeing 737 Max flight after its pilots encountered an engine warning light that the airline said required an engine run, a spokesperson told CBC. The airline, which used the Max for flights as far as Hawaii and Europe prior to the grounding, has since resumed flights without issue.

Boeing declined to comment for The Air Current story and when asked by Insider about Clark’s concerns,

“I believe they still have work to do in Boeing to get themselves sorted out,” Clark told Reuters. “There is a top-down culpability and accountability and they need to recognize that.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest Airlines just resumed Boeing 737 Max flights and may go all-in with a reported order for ‘dozens’ of new jets

Southwest Boeing 737 Max
Southwest Airlines’ grounded Boeing 737 Max fleet.

  • Southwest Airlines resumed flights with the Boeing 737 Max on Thursday.
  • The day has 32 departures planned to 15 different cities in the strongest Max resumption of any US airline.
  • Southwest is reportedly nearing a deal for “dozens” of new Boeing 737 Max 7 jets, Reuters reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines is all in on the Boeing 737 Max.

Passenger flights on the aircraft for the Dallas-based carrier resumed on Thursday in the latest milestone for Boeing’s infamous jet. The first four flights departed from cities across the US at 8 a.m. Dallas time, just two days short of the two-year anniversary of the Federal Aviation Administration’s order to ground the aircraft on the heels of a fatal Max crash in Ethiopia.

Southwest started the day strong with 32 flights planned to 15 cities in an opening salvo unrivaled by any of its competitors in their Max debuts. American Airlines, for example, started with just two daily departures and United Airlines started with 24. Alaska Airlines, with only one aircraft in its fleet, started with four departures on its first day.

But Southwest has also waited the longest to get the Max back in the air, a surprising choice considering the low-cost carrier had the largest pre-grounding fleet of 34-strong Max aircraft.

The first flights are the culmination of over 200 proving flights that the airline has performed with the Max since its November ungrounding as part of its return to service. Southwest pilots flying the Max are also now required to undergo training in a 737 Max simulator and classroom setting, which was not required before the grounding.

“To be clear, I have the utmost confidence in our ability to safely operate the Boeing 737 MAX 8,” CEO Gary Kelly said in a letter to customers. Kelly was aboard one of the proving flights, describing it as “quiet and smooth.”

The same 15 cities are slated to see the Max in March, per current Cirium data, including Atlanta; Fort Myers, Florida; Baltimore; New Orleans; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Denver; Orlando, Florida; Chicago; Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Salt Lake City; Las Vegas; San Antonio, Texas; and Portland, Oregon. After a month, however, the Max will quickly grow in the US with Southwest planning 252 daily departures starting April 12, according to Cirium.

Hawaii is a likely destination for the Max in the future as travelers flock to the islands for a tropical reprieve amid the pandemic. Southwest’s pre-grounding schedule shows that the airline considers the Max to be truly interchangeable with its current fleet and will fly both the longest and shortest flights in the airline’s route map.

Travelers still uncertain about flying on the Max can opt to switch flights free of charge, a policy adopted by all four US airlines operating the aircraft.

A massive new Boeing 737 Max order

March 10, a date that was slated to commemorate the loss of life on Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 in 2019, became a hopeful day for Boeing as reports indicated Southwest was nearing a deal to buy more Max aircraft from the manufacturer, Reuters reported.

Southwest is eyeing the 737 Max 7, the smallest aircraft in the Max family and one that’s yet to enter commercial service with any airline. If the order comes to fruition, the Max 7 aircraft will gradually replace the 737-700 Next Generation aircraft in Southwest’s fleet.

Boeing and Southwest declined to comment on the deal.

Southwest had driven a hard bargain to secure a favorable deal, even suggesting it might consider taking on the Airbus A220, the smallest aircraft in the European plane maker’s lineup. The order for “dozens” of Max jets is reported to be in the billions, with the list price of $99.7 million per jet, and would put another high-profile order between Boeing and the Max grounding.

The Max 7 could fly any of Southwest’s current routes, including those to Hawaii, thanks to its superior range. Its cost-saving economics combined with commonality with the larger Boeing fleet means Southwest can easily swap the aircraft in on underperforming flights to minimize losses, which may be critical if aviation’s recovery from the pandemic is protracted.

“I would not hesitate for a second to put my wife, daughters, and sons-in-law, and granddaughters onboard the plane,” Kelly said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Airlines continue to flock to the Boeing 737 Max as it debuts on Alaska and United places a massive new order

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max
An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max.

  • Alaska Airlines began passenger flights with the Boeing 737 Max on Monday.
  • The first day of flights saw two round-trips, the first from Seattle to San Diego, California.
  • United Airlines just placed an order for an additional 25 Boeing 737 Max aircraft.  
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Boeing’s most notorious aircraft is having a great start to March with two milestones to kick off the month. 

Alaska Airlines began passenger service with the Boeing 737 Max on Monday after a long-delayed start. Flight AS482 departed to San Diego from the airline’s hub in Seattle in the early morning hours of the day and arrived without issue before departing back for Seattle.

The first flight was the culmination of more than 19,000 miles and 50 hours of proving flights performed in the weeks since the aircraft’s delivery to Alaska. The airline’s sole Boeing 737 Max 9 was flown as far from Seattle as Charleston, South Carolina; Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; and Juneau, Alaska throughout February, FlightAware data shows. 

Alaska is the fourth US airline to fly the Max and initially planned to start service during the summer of 2019 until the March 2019 grounding delayed those planes. The first Max delivery to Alaska only occurred in January, just two months following the Federal Aviation Administration’s ungrounding order that was quickly echoed by countless regulators around the world.

Executives were confident in the aircraft and its cost-saving abilities even before the first model arrived at Alaska’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport hub. Boeing’s loyal customer ended 2020 with firm orders for 68 aircraft, up from an initial 32-aircraft order, and options for 52 more before the first proving flight was even flown. 

More airlines have also relaunched Max service following the ungrounding as countries and regions like Canada, the EU, and Brazil have approved the aircraft to return to the skies. Boeing said in late January that more than 2,700 flights had already been by the Max since the ungrounding

Alaska has only four daily departures are planned with the aircraft until March 18 when its second Max enters passenger service. Los Angeles and San Diego are currently the only cities receiving Max visits on flights from Seattle, according to Cirium data, and eventually from Portland, Oregon. 

The aircraft will primarily stay on the West Coast until more aircraft are added but the proving flights reveal the airline likely has plans for East Coast and Hawaii Max flights. Alaska will be able to take the Max south of the border to Mexico, the airline’s largest international destination region, and Costa Rica as both countries have given the aircraft a green light to fly in their airspace. 

United places more Max orders

United Airlines is also pressing forward with the Max on the heels of a successful relaunch. Andrew Nocella, the airline’s chief commercial officer, told staff in a memo that 25 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft were just ordered and deliveries of 45 previously ordered aircraft have been moved up. 

“These new aircraft represent the best the industry has to offer in terms of customer amenities, experience and comfort,” Nocella said in the memo, which United shared with Insider. “In fact, flights on our MAX aircraft in 2018 and 2019 had the highest average customer satisfaction score of any large narrowbody aircraft.”

The relaunch of United’s Max aircraft kicked off on February 11 with the first flight uneventfully journeying from Denver to Houston, Texas, with Insider onboard. United has steadily increased the number of Max flights and is on track to go from 24 daily departures on February 11 to 96 by the end of March, according to Cirium.

Jonathan Roitman, United’s chief operating officer, told Insider after the first flight that the Max name hasn’t driven too many passengers away from the aircraft. Many on the first flight didn’t even know they were flying on a Max, despite United’s warnings when booking a flight on the Max and the aircraft’s name on airport signage and onboard safety cards

Both United and Alaska are the only two US airlines flying the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, the largest variant in commercial service. 

Southwest Airlines is the only US airline to fly that Max that hasn’t relaunched operations, with its Max relaunch expected in March.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on the first Boeing 737 Max passenger flight in the US since its grounding. Here’s what it was like.

Author Chris Sloan
Author Chris Sloan waiting to board the Boeing 737 Max in Miami on Tuesday.

  • On Tuesday, American Airlines became the first US airline to fly the Boeing 737 Max since it was grounded in March 2019 following two crashes in a five-month span.
  • Writer Chris Sloan was onboard the three-hour flight from Miami to New York with 95 other people made up of press, bloggers, airline employees, and regular passengers.
  • Sloan says he felt completely safe and comfortable on the Max, and that the flight went smoothly save minor bumps during the descent into windy New York.
  • Some staffers on the flight were so comfortable with the Max’s return they brought family members along for the memorable event.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Tuesday, American Airlines became the first US airline to fly the Boeing 737 Max on route from Miami to New York, launching a new saga for the storied aircraft.

The 737 Max was once Boeing’s bestselling commercial aircraft of all time, peaking at over 5,000 orders and a runaway success for its 79 operators, according to data provided by Cirium. The Max made nearly 250,000 flights worldwide since it began flying passengers in May 2017. Then, the Max was grounded by the FAA in March 2019 following two ill-fated flights that crashed within five months of each other and took 346 lives. The aircraft hasn’t flown passengers in the US since, until Tuesday. 

After months of strenuous work to fix the quality control, cultural, and design flaws, Boeing has now readied the Max for passenger flights. American Airlines and other operators have also been working at warp speed to safely return the Max to flying. According to a statement from American Airlines, their tech operations team in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has put more than 64,000 hours of work into maintaining and upgrading the Max fleet over the past 20 months.

For years, I flew the Boeing 737 Max twice a month on one of American Airlines’ most profitable and well-traveled milk runs between Miami and New York. Flying doesn’t get much more routine than this route, and it became pedestrian for me as it did for many others.

Tuesday’s flight was the first step in rebuilding the trust that Boeing and the Max once commanded among its airline customers and the traveling public. (AA conducted a demo flight December 3.)

Here’s what it was like to be a passenger onboard the first Boeing 737 Max passenger flight.

American worked closely with Boeing on recertification and rewriting of new training protocols, with 1,400 of the company’s pilots undergoing required simulator training before flying the Max.

The Boeing 737 Max.
The Boeing 737 Max.

Source: American Airlines President Robert Isom.

As of the end of this year, American will have reactivated all 24 of its delivered Max airplanes and taken delivery of 10 more, according to American President Robert Isom, who was also onboard the flight.

American Airlines President Robert Isom speaking to the press in Miami before takeoff on Tuesday.
American Airlines President Robert Isom speaking to the press in Miami before takeoff on Tuesday.

Though Gol Linhas Aereas of Brazil and Aeromexico were first to return the Max to service, American became the first US carrier to bring the aircraft back with flight 718 from Miami to New York.

The Boeing 737 Max awaiting boarding in Miami
The Boeing 737 Max awaiting boarding in Miami.

American safely operated 18,962 Max flights from its launch in November 2017, but is restarting Max service with just one daily round trip per day – a far cry from the over 2,500 flights the Max operated for AA in its last month before the grounding.

Part of American Airlines' new routes for the Boeing Max.
Part of American Airlines’ new routes for the Boeing Max.

Source: Cirium

American safely flew more than 2.5 million passengers over 46,400 operating hours on more than 18,000 flights before the grounding.

Checking boarding passes before the flight.
Checking boarding passes before the flight.

Source: American Airlines

Read more: The FAA has cleared Boeing’s 737 Max to fly passengers again — here’s when and where each US airline will be flying it

American President Robert Isom said he’s “confident” the Max is “ready to go.” He and other AA employees and executives have been flying “flights to nowhere” designed to build confidence in the Max.

American Airlines President Robert Isom speaking to the press in Miami before takeoff on Tuesday.
American Airlines President Robert Isom speaking to the press in Miami before takeoff on Tuesday.

For all operators, the key is winning confidence, and customers haven’t shunned the Max as expected. “We haven’t seen any evidence that people are booking away from the Max,” Isom said.

AA President Robert Isom and airport staff.
AA President Robert Isom and airport staff.

The airline is being very transparent when passengers are booking and flying on the Max. Currently, they’re offering free rebooking or cancellations for AA travel credits, at no cost if passengers are uncomfortable flying on the Max.

Tuesday's flight from Miami to New York.
Tuesday’s flight from Miami to New York.

American also pledges to alert passengers via text and app notification should there be an equipment swap for a Max.

The Max preparing for takeoff.
The Max preparing for takeoff.

Read more: US airlines are allowing passengers to avoid the Boeing 737 Max as it returns to the skies in the coming months

When we were boarding, the gate agent announced we were flying the 737 Max aircraft.

At the American Airlines' gate before boarding.
At the American Airlines gate before boarding.

No passengers I spoke to were uncomfortable flying the Max: “I trust the plane. It will be much better now that it’s been revised,” said Vilma Maldonado, who was traveling to see her daughter.

Vilma Maldonado.
Passenger Vilma Maldonado.

My seatmate, Eduardo Fernandes, flies every week. “It’s been tested and looked at now more than any other plane in history, so I feel completely safe,” he said.

Passenger Eduardo Fernandes.
Passenger Eduardo Fernandes.

As to be expected, others I spoke to had no idea what aircraft they were flying, nor did they care. “As long as it gets me there safely,” one passenger said.

Boarding the Max.
Boarding the Max.

The boarding was routine, with only 96 passengers made up of press, bloggers, airline employees, and regular passengers. Other than the presence of the airline’s president on the flight and news crews, nothing was unusual.

Passengers on board the Max.
Passengers onboard the Max.

The light load had more to do with flying in a pandemic to a cold, quarantined New York than it did with the aircraft. The return leg back to sunny Miami is oversold.

Onboard the Max.
Onboard the Max.

Once onboard, the Max felt like any normal flight, as normal as flying can be during a pandemic.

The author in his seat on the Max.
The author in his seat on the Max.

Our Captain Sean Roskey, a 29-year veteran, thanked his American and Boeing colleagues for their hard work in bringing the Max back to service, adding, “I feel so confident about the plane that I bought my mother along for the trip.”

The pilots posing with a flight attendant.
Captain Sean Roskey (left) and copilot posing with a flight attendant.

Adding to the family affair, First Officer Moraima Maldonado had her mom aboard, too. The cabin erupted into applause with these sentimental announcements.

The pilots of the American Airlines flight.
The pilots of the American Airlines flight.

As we pushed back six minutes early, the ground crew stopped, took selfies, and waved us off. We taxied quickly to the runway. I could sense no real anticipation or celebration that normally accompanies special flights.

The Miami ground crew before takeoff.
The Miami ground crew before takeoff.

The Boeing 737 Max’s quiet GE Leap engine take-off noise was interrupted by a short, “golf clap”-style burst of applause.

Passengers onboard the American Airlines flight
Passengers onboard the American Airlines flight.

Boeing and its Max operators hope no news is good news. In other words, Boeing’s longtime affectionate slogan became, “If it’s Boring, I’m Going.”

During the flight to New York.
During the flight to New York.

The flight itself was very smooth and uneventful, with only minor bumps into a gusty LaGuardia on the descent.

A view of the left wing of the Max.
A view of the left wing of the Max.

Read more: American Airlines just completed the Boeing 737 Max’s first passenger flight in the US since March 2019

All stakeholders can hope is the Max’s re-entry into service mirrors this first flight, especially as the relaunch kicks into high gear in the new year.

Landing in New York.
Landing in New York.

Brett Snyder of the Cranky Flier says all eyes will remain on the Max. “The media will make front page news of even the smallest incident like a medical diversion and plaster the headlines about it being a Max … but as the airplane quietly performs well flight after flight, the concerns will melt away and people will forget about this,” he said. “It just takes time.”

Pulling up to the gate in LaGuardia.
Pulling up to the gate in LaGuardia.

“We’re not going to build trust just sitting on the ground,” said David Seymour, AA chief operations officer.

The Max after landing in New York.
The Max after landing in New York.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Boeing 737 Max suffered a mid-air engine issue and was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Arizona

Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8
An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8.

  • An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max aircraft flying from Arizona to Montreal, Canada, was forced into an unscheduled landing because of an engine problem, the airline said Friday.
  • The aircraft was diverted soon after take off on December 22 when the crew received an “engine indication” and “decided to shut down one engine,” the airline said.
  • The three crew members were the only people on board.
  • Boeing 737 Max aircraft were grounded for 18 months following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people — although the engines were not implicated. Airlines began using them again in early December.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max aircraft was forced into an unscheduled landing in Tuscon, Arizona after the crew noticed a problem with an engine, the airline confirmed Friday.

The only people on board were three crew members, the airline said.

The aircraft was scheduled to fly from Arizona to Montreal, Canada, but was diverted soon after take off when the crew received an “engine indication” and “decided to shut down one engine,” the airline said.

“The aircraft then diverted to Tucson, where it landed normally and remains,” it said.

“Modern aircraft are designed to operate with one engine and our crews train for such operations,” the airline said.

Boeing 737 Max aircraft were grounded for 18 months following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. Airlines began using the craft again in early December, starting in Brazil.

The two fatal crashes were put down to flaws in automated flight software, which caused the planes to nosedive. The engines were not blamed. Boeing has made a number of changes to the aircraft since the crashes, including to the flight control software. 

Belgian aviation news website Aviation24.be reported that the Air Canada crew discovered “left engine hydraulic low pressure” followed by “an indication of a fuel imbalance” from the left-hand wing.

The incident happened on December 22.

Airlines have been rushing to get the plane back in the air, take deliveries of delayed orders, and place new orders, despite customer skepticism.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The FAA ignored safety issues ahead of deadly crashes, cozied up with companies it was supposed to regulate, and retaliated against whistleblowers, according to an explosive congressional investigation

FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, U.S., March 26, 2019.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California

  • An explosive congressional report released on Friday found “significant lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership” at the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • The report determined that the agency repeatedly ignored safety warnings ahead of fatal crashes, was cozy with the companies it was supposed to regulate, and retaliated against whistleblowers who raised concerns.
  • It also said the FAA and Boeing improperly influenced tests meant to determine if 737 MAX aircraft were safe to fly again, and that the FAA let Southwest Airlines put “millions of passengers at potential risk” by not knowing if planes were safe.
  • The report summarizes the findings of a nearly two-year-long Senate investigation prompted by two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX planes, which the FAA cleared to fly again last month.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In April 2019, following two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation opened an investigation into the incidents.

On Friday, 20 months later, the committee released its findings in a scathing report that blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for repeatedly falling short on its regulatory duties, with regards to Boeing as well as the industry more broadly.

“Our findings are troubling,” Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi who chairs the committee, said in a press release.

“The report details a number of significant examples of lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It is clear that the agency requires consistent oversight to ensure their work to protect the flying public is executed fully and correctly,” Sen. Wicker said.

As part of its investigation, the committee heard from more than 50 whistleblowers, interviewed FAA staff, and reviewed over 15,000 pages of documents.

A spokesperson for the FAA told Business Insider the agency had “just received” the report and is “carefully reviewing the document, which the Committee acknowledges contains a number of unsubstantiated allegations.”

“The FAA is committed to continuous advancement of aviation safety and improving our organization, processes, and culture,” the spokesperson said.

The report comes just weeks after the FAA cleared the 737 MAX to fly again.

“Boeing is committed to improving aviation safety, strengthening our safety culture, and rebuilding trust with our customers, regulators, and the flying public. We take seriously the Committee’s findings and will continue to review the report in full,” Boeing said in a statement, adding “we will never forget the lives lost on board.”

A spokesperson for Southwest told Business Insider the company was aware of the report and has “utilized many of these past references to improve our practices and oversight, further enhancing an already robust Safety Management System.”

“Southwest Airlines maintains a culture of compliance, recognizing the Safety of our operation as the most important thing we do,” the spokesperson said, adding: “We do not tolerate any relaxing of standards that govern ultimate Safety across our operation.”

A few of the major points from the report include:

  • During tests meant to determine if the 737 MAX was safe to fly again, Boeing “inappropriately influenced” flight simulation tests. 
  • FAA senior leadership “may have obstructed” a review of the crashes conducted by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general. (The FAA said it “conducted a thorough and deliberate review” along with international regulators and was “confident” that the safety issues that played a role in the crashes have been addressed.).
  • The FAA “repeatedly permitted Southwest Airlines to continue operating dozens of aircraft in an unknown airworthiness condition for several years. These flights put millions of passengers at potential risk.”
  • FAA leadership repeatedly overruled and undermined the agency’s frontline safety inspectors and ignored their warnings – and, in at least one case, the warning preceded a fatal crash.
  • Multiple whistleblowers alleged a culture of “coziness” between the FAA and Boeing as well as other companies within its regulatory scope.
  • The FAA provided “contradictory and misleading” information to congressional investigators, refused to answer more than half of its questions and refused to let them interview many of its staff.
  • The FAA “continues to retaliate against whistleblowers.”

Read the full report here »

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