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Half of travelers avoid Boeing planes after safety incidents

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The fuselage plug area of ​​Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX Flight 1282

Up to half of passengers are deliberately avoiding flying on Boeing planes this summer and are turning to digital tools to avoid buying tickets on Boeing flights.

DailyMail.com spoke to several travel industry experts who said up to half of customers are now avoiding Boeing planes following a series of safety concerns.

One of the scariest incidents involved the bursting of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 at 16,000 feet in January.

Aaron Sutherland, founder of travel company Jetsetter Lifestyle, said there has been a “notable” shift in customer confidence around Boeing planes.

Sutherland said: ‘In recent months, almost 50 per cent of our clientele have explicitly requested to avoid Boeing aircraft for both domestic and international travel.

The fuselage plug area of ​​Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX Flight 1282

‘While airlines periodically change their aircraft to optimize operations, these changes are often outside of our control as a travel agency.

“However, we have seen a growing trend of passengers meticulously checking the aircraft type before their flight.

“When it comes to Boeing, especially the 737 MAX, we often receive urgent requests to adjust travel plans, even at the last minute.”

Multiple models of Boeing airliners have blown doors and mid-air engine fires.

Two crashes also killed 346 people on Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019 near the city of Bishoftu.

In a sign that the industry is losing confidence, Boeing received orders for just four new planes in May and, for the second straight month, none for its best-selling 737 Max.

Boeing faces a “long road” to address safety problems, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration said in May.

In late February, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to develop a comprehensive plan to address “systemic quality control issues” and prohibited it from expanding production of the 737 MAX.

Sutherland says passengers are especially wary of the 737 Max, which still “incites fear” after the FAA grounded the plane for 20 months through November 2020 following the two high-profile crashes, the longest grounding ever by an American plane.

The plane was recertified by the FAA in December 2020, but following the Alaska Airlines incident (involving a Boeing 737 Max 9), customers are cautious.

All 157 passengers and crew died after the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 flight crashed six minutes after takeoff.

All 157 passengers and crew died after the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 flight crashed six minutes after takeoff.

Sutherland says, “We have several customers who absolutely refuse to fly this model, regardless of the series or its up-to-date safety record.”

Sutherland is CEO of Jetsetter Lifestyle, a California-based luxury travel company offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Customers are turning to flight search tools that can exclude bookings on Boeing planes, particularly the 737 Max, says Hollie Mckay, travel expert and vice president of communications at HotelPlanner.

Flight search engines like Alternative Airlines allow users to exclude Boeing planes and, in particular, the 737 Max, McKay says, and travelers also choose airlines known to use Airbus models.

McKay said: “Following the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2018 and 2019, there was a significant perception among customers that Boeing aircraft, especially the 737 MAX model, could be dangerous.

‘Safety concerns resurfaced when a series of Boeing mishaps made headlines again this year, including the exploding door of an Alaska Airlines in early January.

«For many, flying is already a hectic experience over which the passenger has little control, and the number of incidents with Boeing, which are comparatively very small considering the millions of flights that are carried out every day without problems, still seem unnecessary risks when there are other options.

Boeing has recorded two months of weekly airplane sales

Boeing has recorded two months of weekly airplane sales

But McKay says she personally still uses Boeing Max planes and recently flew four flights to Europe on Boeing.

She said: ‘I made note of the plane before boarding, something I don’t normally do, and the thought stuck with me until we landed.

“But ultimately, flying is still by far the safest means of transportation. This is due to strict regulatory oversight by authorities such as the FAA and ICAO, which enforce comprehensive safety standards.

“The aircraft undergo rigorous and regular maintenance and are equipped with advanced technologies and robust designs with multiple redundancies.”

In the proposed March 2024 airworthiness directive (AD), the FAA warned Boeing about an “electrostatic discharge,” or risk of static electricity, near the center wing fuel tanks.

“The unsafe condition, if not addressed, could result in an ignition source within the fuel tank,” the FAA said, “and a subsequent fire or explosion.”

The FAA specifically requested that new “electrical bonding” and “grounding” be installed to prevent short circuits or “electrostatic discharge” around an air intake system near the 777’s center wing fuel tanks.

The warning was standard procedure for addressing problems and does not mean that flying the plane is dangerous.

The death of flight SQ321 and the FAA warning add to the controversies already agitating the aerospace giant and its ‘triple seven’ aircraft.

This year has also seen Senate testimony from Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour, who accused Boeing of taking shortcuts in building the 777.

“I observed Boeing workers use improper and untested methods to align parts on the 777,” Salehpour, who was once a quality engineer at Boeing, told Senate investigators.

“In one case, we even jumped on pieces of the plane to align them.”

Pilot and CEO of The Jettly Flight, Justin Crabbe, says regaining customer trust will be an “uphill battle” for the company.

Customers think Boeing planes are dangerous. Many customers still doubted their safety, even after authorities cleared the planes to fly.

“People are questioning the company’s safety culture and oversight.”

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