Business Travel Advisory -3/14/19

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UPDATE: 4:23pm EDT

Update on 737 MAX operations

Earlier today, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated the grounding of all 737 MAX aircraft operated by U.S. airlines and within U.S. airspace. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and employees, and we will comply with the FAA’s order and ground our 14 737 MAX 9 aircraft, effective immediately. 

We have been in close contact with investigators as well as Boeing to share data and fully cooperate with regulatory authorities, and will remain aligned with authorities as their investigation continues.

To minimize any potential impact to customers, we have been working diligently on contingency plans to prepare our fleet in the event of a government mandate.

Our MAX aircraft account for roughly 40 flights a day, and through a combination of repositioning other aircraft types and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact as a result of this order. We will continue to work with our customers to help minimize any travel disruptions, and will proactively contact any customer whose travel may be impacted by this order.

Please feel free to contact our Contact Centers or your United Sales representative if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your support and understanding. We will provide updates as additional information becomes available.

Original Alert:

UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13
Today, March 13, Boeing 737 MAX 8 & 9 aircraft were grounded in the United States in an Executive Order issued by President Trump, reversing an earlier decision by the Federal Aviation Administration. The temporary emergency order comes after safety regulators in more than 40 countries around the world banned the equipment. More than 350 Boeing 737 MAX 8 & 9 jets are in global fleets, 74 of which are flown domestically in the US.
 
Background
On Sunday, March 10, Ethiopian Airlines flight #302 was scheduled to travel from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO); however, shortly after take-off, the aircraft’s pilot issued a distress call, and the flight fatally crashed near Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa.
 
While an immediate cause of the crash has not yet been identified, the aircraft itself has come into question. In addition to Sunday’s fatal crash, a new Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight went down over the Java Sea last October, killing 189 people. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in its advisory on March 11 that it had not been provided with any information that would draw similarities between the incidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia; however, on March 13, Canada’s Transport Minister referenced newly available satellite-tracking data that suggested similarities between the two incidents.
 
About the Aircraft
There are approximately 350 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in operation worldwide, according to the US FAA. The 200-seat Boeing 737 MAX is one of the fastest selling lines by Boeing, with more than 4,000 planes ordered within the first six months of coming into the market in 2017. 
 
It’s important to note the particular model of aircraft involved in both crashes cited above was the Boeing 737 MAX 8, though a number of countries have also grounded the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Both the MAX 8 and 9 utilize a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which is a new feature on the models. Pilot organizations in the United States criticized Boeing after it disclosed that it had added a new feature to the plane’s autopilot system without detailing the changes in pilot training.
 
MCAS was designed to account for minor modifications to the placement of the plane’s engines. In the process it changed a manual override feature that allowed pilots to pull the plane out of a nosedive by pulling back on its control column. While Boeing maintains that processes are in place to overcome the “automatic trim” that nudges the nose of the plane downward in some circumstances, pilot unions say the change was not adequately outlined in pilot training. The Federal Aviation Administration advisory Monday asked for a number of changes to the MCAS system of the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets, including “activation enhancements,” “signal enhancements,” operations manuals and a pilot checklist.
 
Aircraft Grounded in Multiple Countries
On March 13, Boeing 737 MAX 8 & 9 aircraft were grounded in the United States in an Executive Order issued by President Trump, reversing an earlier decision by the Federal Aviation Administration. Additionally, the Boeing 737 Max 8 has been temporarily banned in Australia, China, France, Germany, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, South Korea and the UK, among other countries, as well as grounded by multiple airlines around the world.
 
Despite growing pressure from legislatures and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, on Monday at 3:15 EST, the FAA issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification for Boeing 737 MAX Operators: “An FAA team is on-site with the NTSB in its investigation of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. We are collecting data and keeping in contact with international civil aviation authorities as information becomes available. Today, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX Operators. The FAA continuously assesses and oversees the safety performance of US commercial aircraft. If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”
 
Airlines that Fly the Aircraft
Domestically, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines fly the Boeing 737 MAX 8. United Airlines operates a different model, the Boeing 737 MAX 9. Southwest has 34 of the planes in operation, while American operates 24. 
 
Aeromexico, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Cayman Airways, Comair Airways, Eastar Jets, Icelandic Airways and Norwegian Air, among others, have temporarily suspended use of the planes.
 
Globally, the aircraft is operated by the following airlines: AerCap, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air China, Air Europa, Air Europa, Air Lease Corporation, Air Niugini, Air Niugini, Air Peace, Air Peace, ALAFCO, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Arik Air, Arik Air, Aviation Capital Group, Avolon, Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan, Blue Air, Blue Air, BOC Aviation, CALC, CDB Aviation, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, CIT Aerospace, Comair Limited, Copa Airlines, Corendon Airlines, Corendon Airlines, Donghai Airlines, Donghai Airlines, Eastern Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, Enter Air, Enter Air, Ethiopian Airlines, flydubai, Garuda Indonesia, GE Capital Aviation Services, GOL Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, ICBC Leasing, ICBC Leasing, Icelandair, Jet Airways, Jetlines, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lion Air, Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Mauritania Airlines, Mauritania Airlines, Neox, Neos, Nok Air, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Okay Airways, Oman Air, Primera Air , Primera Air, Qatar Airways, Qatar Airways, Ruili Airlines, Ruili Airlines, Ryanair, Shandong Airlines, Shandong Airlines, SilkAir, SMBC Aviation Capital, Southwest Airlines, SpiceJet, Sriwijaya Air, Sriwijaya Air, SunExpress, Travel Service, TUI Group, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, VietJet Aviation, VietJet Aviation, Virgin Australia, WestJet, Xiamen Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
 
 
Checking Aircraft Equipment in the GDS
In Sabre and Apollo, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 will appear as Equipment Code 7M8 and the Boeing 737 MAX 9 as Equipment Code 7M9; however, exact equipment often changes leading up to departure. The most current information can also be found on www.flightstats.com.
 
Currently, airlines are not issuing waivers for flight changes that involve the aircraft where there is not a country ban or airline grounding in place.

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