Anna Luebke - Dec 7, 2020
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American Airlines joins the airlines that ‘fly to nowhere’. The Texas-based airline is preparing five employee-only trips in the B737 MAX in the hopes of regaining confidence in this aircraft.

American Airlines is giving Boeing’s 737 MAX a vote of confidence. The North American company scheduled five flights in this single-aisle plane during December, trips in which no passengers will be allowed and where the destination will be the same departure airport.

All five American Airlines trips to nowhere will take off from Dallas, Miami and New York. These trips follow the same trend of the ‘flights to nowhere’ concept that came to popularity in Asia and Oceania in recent months, except this time the goal is not to promote domestic tourism or offset losses, but to regain the confidence of users in the embattled Boeing plane.

Grounded for Almost 2 Years

The B737 MAX received the long-awaited certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration on November 18, after almost two years of being forced to stay on the ground due to two fatal accidents: one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia, which resulted in 346 deaths.

After 20 months, the findings revealed that, due to a technical failure, safety systems designed to prevent too rapid a climb had behaved improperly, causing sudden descents that could not be controlled by the pilots and that led to fatal accidents.

This crisis has cost Boeing close to 17 billion euros, including the 1,000 cancellations of plane orders and compensations to victims and airlines. The B737 MAX crisis aggravated further amid the coronavirus pandemic, which took a heavy toll on the aviation industry.

Fly to Nowhere with American Airlines

American Airlines scheduled the return of its B737 MAXs for December 29. The airline will make five flights reserved for employees as well as workers from regional partners Envoy Air, Piedmont Airlines and PSA Airlines. Users of Credit Union American Airlines credit card may also join these trips.

The flights will last only one hour and will return to the starting point. The first of these trips took place on December 3 from Dallas-Fort Worth, followed by another flight on December 8 from Miami.

Two B737 MAXs will take off from LaGuardia Airport in New York on December 9 and 15, with the last flight taking off in Miami on December 17.

American has 24 B737 MAXs in its fleet, and maintains 76 orders for new units, of which at least eight would have to be received before the end of the year.

Crew confidence will be hard to recover even though many employees are already training in flight simulators to regain control, but the confidence of the customers is clearly a different subject.

Choose a Different Plane

Chief Customer Officer Alison Taylor pointed out that the airline will warn passengers if they have booked a ticket on the B737 MAX, and if they are not sure about flying with this plane, they will be allowed to change their ticket.

Southwest Airlines, the largest B737 MAX operator, has 31 units in its fleet, and CEO Gary Kelly said that they may reschedule flights with this plane only in the second quarter of 2021.

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