The first U.S. commercial flight on Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet left Miami for New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday morning, almost two years after the aircraft was grounded worldwide.
The Max was banned in March 2019 after a Lion Air crash in October 2018 in Indonesia killed 189 people and was followed five months later by an Ethiopian Airlines crash that caused the death of all 157 people aboard.
American Airlines Flight 718 departed Miami International Airport at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The airline plans to fly the Max from Miami to New York and back through Jan. 4 before adding more routes.
In September, an investigative report from the House of Representatives placed the blame for the accidents squarely on Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration for their “repeated and serious failures.”
The crashes “were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA,” the congressional report said.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, who flew the plane in September, told CNBC last month he is “100 percent confident” in the recertified 737 Max.
That confidence is not shared by all passengers, however. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that 57 percent of Americans said they were not likely to fly in a Boeing 737 Max when told of the plane’s history.
Passengers on all of American’s Max flights will be given advance warning, with the option to rebook, the airline said.
“Our promise to any customer that flies on us is that if you get on the 737 Max and you don’t want to fly, we’re going to allow you to change,” David Seymour, chief operating officer of American Airlines, said.
Restoring public trust might take a while, said Mike Urban, who flew to Miami from Baltimore specifically to take the first flight in the recertified jet.
“I think this is going to take a long time,” he told NBC News. “I think people will regain trust eventually. And it might take some rebranding of the aircraft, too.”
Boeing still faces dozens of wrongful death lawsuits by victims families over the safety issues that led to the crashes. The families of Ethiopian crash victims urged regulators to ground the planes after new revelations included in a Senate Commerce Committee report released Friday found a series of failures in Boeing’s recertification efforts.
“It is infuriating that American Airlines is in effect rewarding Boeing for the corrupt and catastrophic process that led to the Max,” said Yalena Lopez-Lewis, whose husband, Antoine Lewis, died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Earlier this month, Brazilian airline Gol became the world’s first carrier to fly the recertified planes.
United Airlines plans to reintroduce the Max starting Feb. 11, and Southwest, the largest operator of 737 Max jets, is scheduled to start using the jet again “no sooner than the second quarter of 2021,” according to a notice on its website.
“We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations,” Boeing CEO David Calhoun said in a statement in November. “These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.”
American Airlines has ordered 76 Max jets to add to its current fleet of 24 737 Max aircraft.