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Are airlines pivoting away from the Boeing 737 ‘MAX’ brand?

written by Hannah Dowling | November 17, 2020
737 MAX Family in flight (Boeing)

Following a nearly two-year recertification process, Boeing is set to win official approval in the US to resume flights on its embattled 737 MAX within the week, however signs are pointing to a potential re-brand of the ‘tarnished’ MAX title.

As previously reported by World of Aviation, the FAA last week entered its final stages of reviewing the proposed safety changes to the MAX, however could now lift its grounding order as early as Wednesday this week.

However, as things begin to normalise for Boeing, it looks as if the planemaker still has an uphill battle to repair the damage done to the MAX brand, as customers begin to distance themselves from the troubled name.

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The first instance suggesting that this may be the case occurred when Boeing itself announced its first order on the 737 MAX for 2020, when Polish airline Enter Air agreed to buy four jets.

The joint statement released by Boeing and Enter Air made no mention of the MAX title, instead opting to use the aircraft’s internal official title of ‘737-8’. 

This was the first time Boeing failed to use the MAX title in its public correspondence on the aircraft, and sparked rumours that Boeing itself might be opting to rebrand the jet. Boeing has made no official announcement that it will be doing so.

Just last week, Air Canada went the same route on its public statement revealing its third quarter 2020 results, only referring to the 737-8 with it’s MAX title in the footnotes.

Air Canada had previously cancelled 11 of its MAX orders, and has now cancelled a further 10 orders.

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Meanwhile, American Airlines has also chosen to remove the MAX title from its in-flight safety cards, kept behind every seat, though the MAX name will remain on booking systems.

“We changed the Boeing 737 safety cards to simplify the cards and ensure the correct card is placed on each aircraft,” an American spokeswoman said, confirming the move. 

“This approach is consistent with other fleet types where we do not have different safety cards for sub-fleets.”

American has previously promised to be transparent with customers when they are booked onboard the MAX, and will offer other travel options if they don’t want to fly the aircraft.

Even exiting US President Donald Trump tweeted back in April 2019, following the second fatal MAX crash: “I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name.”

Industry sources familiar with the branding believe the name will likely be phased out over time, as Boeing and airlines alike attempt to distance themselves from the MAX label, and we could see a lot more emphasis placed on the official names of the variants, like “737-7” or “737-8”. 

“You will see the MAX name used less frequently,” one of the sources reportedly told Reuters, while another anticipates it will phased out entirely over the coming years.

“If Boeing’s customers want it dropped, it will be dropped,” a third source said, adding that some key “customers are saying the name MAX is tainted”.

Independent business valuation consultant Brand Finance last year estimated the MAX’s problems had wiped $7.5 billion off the value of Boeing’s corporate image.

2 Comments

  • Ronnie

    says:

    After more than 2 years since grounding and indeed over a year before that Boeing knew it had big problems with the MAX flight controls, do we really think that Boeing has done a gold standard job in fixing it? I don’t.

  • Warwick

    says:

    Although having been a Boeing flyer since 1969, there’s NO way I’d board a 737MAX.
    I’ve too much investment in living.
    When you look a the fabulous stable of prior Boeings’, namely, 707, 747, 767, 737, it’s a shame that the company ruined such a long reliable history, with the MAX.
    That’s the problem with doing things on the cheap.
    Unfortunately, in aviation, as with a few other areas’, it’s cost human lives’.

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