What’s in a name? For Boeing, that question could become increasingly pertinent as it seeks to rehabilitate the 737 Max.
While the technical challenges posed by the recertification effort are considerable – and at present, all-consuming for the airframer – they are almost by the by: Boeing will throw sufficient engineering resources at the process until the desired outcome is achieved.
But once approval for the restart of flights is obtained, the real battle may begin: how to encourage passengers back onto the jet.
Akbar Al Baker – the outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways – believes that the Max brand has suffered such “reputational damage” that Boeing’s only course of action will be to rename the jet (a view previously expressed by Donald Trump).
A simple way would be to drop the “Max” from the name and simply refer to the aircraft by their 737-7, -8, -9 and -10 designations.
That practice already appears to be in use: IAG’s recent announcement of a deal covering 200 jets omitted any mention of the difficult “M” word (although the airframer’s version of the release included it).
Boeing may eventually bow to this pressure, accelerating a process it was likely to follow anyway.
But will this solve the underlying issue of a fearful flying public?
Initially, no. But memories are short. Assuming that once back in service the Max – or whatever it becomes – suffers no further accidents, then over time the safety associations will fade into the background.
Travellers are savvy, but on short-haul flights the cost of a ticket is the key factor, not the aircraft type. And if the choice is between flying on a Max or not going on holiday, it is clear which they will pick.
Source: Flight International