Next Wednesday marks one month since Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. The investigation into what caused the Boeing 737 MAX to go down, as well as an Indonesian Airline flight that crashed in October of last year, is ongoing, another piece revealed in a Wall Street Journal story Wednesday morning finds Ethiopian pilots had followed procedure. Bu it’s a small piece in what is proving to be a big jigsaw puzzle.
“Right now the American public is not terribly concerned, however, when we look at the drips and drabs of information coming out, more concerns are being built as we learn more about the situation,” says Charlie Leocha, President of Travelers United, an airline consumer advocacy group. He says Southwest and American are the U.S. airlines most impacted by the grounding. Events haven’t impacted wallets yet, but Leocha suggests as the summer tourist season approaches, it might. “Any time there is a financial hit, it does get passed on,” he tells KTRH News. “If Boeing takes a financial hit, because they are the ones who have to pay for everything in the end, then we as passengers are the ones who actually end up paying for it in the end.”
Former Braniff Airlines pilot Denny Kelly concurs. “We’re coming in to the summer travel period and it’s a real problem.”
Leocha explains that airlines have been able to accommodate passengers with minor disruptions so far as Boeing 737 Max planes account for only a small percentage of planes used in commercial passenger aviation, well below 10%.
Expectations are that the planes will remain grounded until June at the earliest, depending on what else comes up in the many investigations. Leocha says most people don’t pay too much attention to what kind of plane they fly on when booking a trip, so it’s hard to predict the impact the long-term shutdown will have on consumers after it is lifted.