U.S. airlines tried to assure nervous customers Monday that the Boeing 737 MAX jets they fly are safe, a day after one of the new jets operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed outside of Addis Ababa and killed all 157 people on board.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Mainz. Southwest had 34 of Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in its fleet of about 750 as of the end of last year and remains “confident in the safety and airworthiness” of its aircraft, the carrier said in a statement.
Southwest doesn’t charge flight change fees like other airlines but passengers flying on different days and flights will have to pay a difference in fare.
American Airlines issued a similar statement and said it had full confidence in its planes and crew members. The airline has 14 of the Boeing 737 MAX 8s in its fleet and has not altered its ticket change polices as of Monday morning.
Some cabin crew members have expressed concerns about the crash.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines including United, said it was formally requesting that the Federal Aviation Administration investigate the plane. United operates a larger model of the Boeing 737 MAX.
“While it is important that we not draw conclusions without all of the facts, in the wake of a second accident, regulators, manufacturers and airlines must take steps to address concerns immediately,” said the AFA’s international president, Sara Nelson.
The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 shortly after takeoff from the Ethiopian capital was the second deadly crash of a Boeing 737 MAX — one of Boeing’s newest and top-selling planes — in less than five months. The same type of plane, operated by Indonesian carrier Lion Air, plunged into the Java Sea minutes after taking off from Jakarta in October, killing all 189 aboard.
United, which has also expressed confidence in its growing fleet of Boeing 737 MAX planes, told Twitter users it operates a larger model of the Boeing 737 MAX, not the model that was involved in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes. It also made a distinction between older and newer Boeing narrow-body jets that have similar model numbers.
Lori Bassani, president of American Airlines’ flight attendant union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said she asked the airline’s executives on Sunday to “address the critical concerns our members have about flying” the Boeing 737 MAX planes.
Following the Ethiopian crash, airline regulators in China and Indonesia told local carriers Monday to temporarily ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes, a move that was followed by Ethiopian Airlines and small carrier Cayman Airways.
Boeing shares were down more than 7 percent in midday trading, while airline shares were mixed. Southwest was off 1 percent, while United was down 0.3 percent. American’s stock rose 0.4 percent and shares of Delta Air Lines, which doesn’t operate any Boeing 737 MAX planes were 2.5 percent higher.
For its part, Boeing said it is in communication with both customers and regulators.
“Safety is our number one priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” the Chicago-based plane manufacturer said in a statement. “The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency on Monday said it’s in contact with aircraft manufacturers and its counterpart in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration. EASA “will immediately decide on actions that may be needed to take at fleet level as soon as the necessary information is available,” it said in a statement.