Half of travelers avoid Boeing planes after safety incidents

As many as half of passengers are consciously avoiding flying on Boeing planes this summer, turning to digital tools to avoid purchasing tickets for Boeing flights.

DailyMail.com spoke to several travel industry experts who said up to half of customers are now avoiding Boeing planes due to a range of safety issues.

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

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

Sutherland said: “In recent months, nearly 50 percent of our customer base has specifically asked to avoid Boeing aircraft for both domestic and international travel.

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

‘While airlines regularly change aircraft to optimize operations, these changes are often beyond our control as a travel agent.

‘However, we see a growing trend for passengers to carefully check the aircraft type before their flight.

“If it’s a Boeing, especially the 737 MAX, we often get urgent requests to adjust travel plans, even at the last minute.”

Several models of Boeing passenger planes have swinging doors in the front and engine fires in the air.

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

In a sign of the industry’s loss of confidence, Boeing received just four new planes in May and no orders for its best-selling 737 Max for the second month in a row.

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

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

Sutherland says passengers are particularly wary of the 737 Max, which continues to ‘spark fear’ after the plane was grounded for 20 months by the FAA until November 2020 following the two high-profile crashes – the longest ever crash of a US aircraft .

The aircraft was recertified by the FAA in December 2020, but in the wake of the Alaska Airlines incident (involving a Boeing 737 Max 9), customers are wary.

All 157 passengers and crew killed after Ethiopia's Boeing 737 Max 8 Flight crashed six minutes after takeoff

All 157 passengers and crew killed after Ethiopia’s Boeing 737 Max 8 Flight crashed six minutes after takeoff

Sutherland says, “We have several customers who adamantly refuse to fly this model, regardless of series or updated safety record.”

Sutherland is CEO of Jetsetter Lifestyle, a California-based luxury travel company that curates unique experiences.

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

Flight search engines like Alternative Airlines allow users to rule out Boeing planes and the 737 Max in particular, McKay says — and travelers also choose airlines known for using 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 flared again when a series of Boeing accidents made headlines again this year, including the door blowing out of an Alaska Airlines in early January.

‘For many, flying is already an exhilarating experience over which the passenger has little control, and the number of Boeing incidents – which is relatively very small when you consider how many millions of flights take place every day without any problems – still seems like unnecessary risks when there are other options are.’

Boeing has been selling planes a week for two months

Boeing has been selling planes a week for two months

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

She said: ‘I took note of the plane before I boarded – something I never normally do, and the thought stayed with me until we landed.

‘But ultimately flying remains by far the safest means of transport. This is due to the strict supervision of authorities such as the FAA and the ICAO, which maintain extensive safety standards.

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

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

“If the unsafe condition is not addressed, it could result in an ignition source in the fuel tank,” the FAA said, “and subsequent fire or explosion.”

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

The warning was a standard procedure to address problems and does not mean that flying the aircraft is dangerous.

The death of Flight SQ321 and the FAA warning join the controversies already gripping the aerospace giant and its ‘triple seven’ aircraft.

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

“I have witnessed Boeing employees using improper and untested methods to align parts on the 777,” Salehpour, a former Boeing quality engineer, told Senate investigators.

“In one case, even jumping 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 find Boeing planes 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.”