Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 31 March 2020

Boeing customer Air Lease asks plane maker to rename ‘damaged’ 737 Max

Plane lessor says rebranding the jet will help address travellers' fears about flying on the plane

Boeing 737 Max aircraft are seen parked outside the company's production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. on January 10, 2020. Reuters.
Boeing 737 Max aircraft are seen parked outside the company's production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. on January 10, 2020. Reuters.

Boeing should rename its 737 Max jet to help allay travellers' concerns about the "damaged" Max brand following two deadly crashes that culminated in a 10-month global grounding of the troubled jet, according to plane leasing-industry veteran Steven Udvar-Hazy.

The chairman and founder of Air Lease, which has 150 of Boeing's 737 Max jets on order, said there is no need for Boeing to retain the Max brand after its association with the tragic incidents. The airplane leasing industry finances about half of the world’s passenger fleet.

"We've asked Boeing to get rid of that word Max," Mr Udvar-Hazy told the Airline Economics aviation finance conference in Dublin on Monday. "I think that word Max should go down in the history books as a bad name for an aircraft."

The comments by Mr Udvar-Hazy echoes a call by US President Donald Trump in April last year to "rebrand" its 737 Max jet. Boeing reiterated in comments to reporters in Seattle in October that it had no plans to change the name of the airplane. The US plane maker is freezing production of its embattled jet as its best-selling plane remains grounded since March following two crashes that killed 346 people.

The executive said airlines are analysing what sort of customer reluctance or defections to other models and carriers they might face, and the duration of that.

“Is it going to be for two months, six months, is it going to be different in different parts of the world?” Mr Udvar-Hazy said. “Will people in the US after a few months forget about the accidents and say, ‘Oh, it’s just another 737’? Are there going to be parts of the world where people are maybe more superstitious and will take longer for them to erase that stigma?”

Boeing’s immediate focus is to return the Max to service and “re-earning” the trust of airlines and travellers, the US plane maker said, according to Bloomberg.

“We remain open minded to all input from customers and other stakeholders, but have no plans at this time to change the name of the 737 Max,” Boeing said.

Boeing is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and airline regulators around the world to re-certify the plane.

The airplane manufacturer appointed chairman David Calhoun, a General Electric veteran, as chief executive on January 13, replacing Dennis Muilenburg.

The chief executive of Dubai-based major aircraft lessor, Firoz Tarapore of Dubai Aerospace Enterprises (DAE), said at the same conference he was concerned that he did not see Boeing "addressing in a proactive way" the matter of customer confidence in the plane.

Updated: January 21, 2020 06:02 PM

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