So what Boeing planes should I avoid right now?
March 31, 2024 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking at a transatlantic flight this summer and I'm wondering how worried I should be about Boeings, especially the 737 Max.

I only just noticed that if you drill down on a flight ticket, you can see what plane it's scheduled to run on. With the recent 737 Max shenanigans I'm planning to avoid them if possible. Should I be avoiding other specific Boeing models too? Refuse to fly in anything but an Airbus? Close my eyes and fly in whatever they put me in?
posted by echo target to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Setting aside whether you should be concerned about the MAX, it doesn't make a lot of sense to extend your concern beyond the MAX*--everything else has been in service for a while, so any systemic problems with the design will have been found. (Yes, you could worry about shoddy construction of a recently-delivered 787 or something, but at that point you're worrying about the particular airframe serving your flight, which you can't know at the time of booking. Even knowing what kind of plane you'll get is not certain at the time of booking, barring airlines who only ever fly one plane on the route in question. There are very, very few all-Boeing or all-Airbus carriers.)

You can actually find Boeing order/delivery data here -- it's overwhelmingly been 737s YTD (I don't know if they're still making non-MAX 737s) and the only non-737 that went to a US carrier was a 787 to Hawaiian.

Are there even any MAXs flying transatlantic routes? Those are usually served by widebodies, though I think some airlines (JetBlue maybe?) do fly narrowbodies.
posted by hoyland at 11:28 AM on March 31 [2 favorites]

Assuming your trip originates in the US, I'm fairly sure you'd only need to avoid Icelandair if you want a 0% chance of flying the 737 MAX. I'm not aware of any other carriers that have them on transatlantic routes (aside from a United flight between Newark and the Azores). If flying from Canada, there would be a few Air Canada and several WestJet routes to avoid.

To your actual question — It's possible you and I would assess the risk differently. But of the options you listed, I'd go with closing your eyes and flying whatever they put you in. The chances of any transatlantic flight encountering a life-threatening incident are miniscule.
posted by theory at 1:27 PM on March 31

Close your eyes and enjoy whatever you're flying in. You'll be fine.

Whether or not you're on a 737 variant depends on the city pairing you're on, but even if it's a 737, you're going to be okay. Thousands of them operate every day.
posted by Thistledown at 1:58 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]

I too think the chances of you encountering any problems on any aircraft, even a 737 MAX, or miniscule. Consider the thousands of flights that happen every day, and the tiny number of incidents that have happened. Flying anything built in the USA or western Europe is far safer than driving to the grocery store.

That being said, I too would feel better avoiding a 737 MAX. I think this will be easy to do. The number of trans-Atlantic flights on 737s is small, though it may increase to as many as 1 in 33 flights this summer.
posted by lhauser at 3:08 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Two data points to consider in addition to the excellent points raised above (the key one of which is that non-737 Max Boeings are not affected by the issues that the Max has):

- Kayak will let you filter by type of aircraft when you're searching for flights, and thus easily exclude the Max
- A lot of what people are experiencing with air travel right now is vibes-based and not an actual degradation of flight safety overall ( link).

That second link is not to minimize your feelings; I am married to a very nervous flier who hates when statistics are rolled out that prove flying is actually much safer than other modes of travel, and I understand that flying brings up a lot of things for a lot of people even when things are not what they are now, Boeing-wise.

I brought that up just to point out that social media, and the constant barrage of news fired at us 24/7 these days, can amplify and distort how bad things actually are with airlines these days. While you're right to be a little concerned, it's probably OK to fly on any plane that your route takes you on.

That said, again, Kayak will let you filter out 737 Max planes pretty easily in a search, so I would recommend doing that, and not worrying about anything else.
posted by pdb at 9:06 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

They don't use 737s for transatlantic flights. It's too small for that.
posted by kschang at 7:40 AM on April 1

How do you plan to get to the airport?

No matter what means you use, look up the accident and fatality stats for that means of transport.

Then relax and remember that flying is statically safer than any of them by a wide margin. On any commercial jet airplane. And especially one operated by a U.S.-based carrier.

For 2023:
Although there were 37 million aircraft movements in 2023 (jet and turboprop), a 17% increase on 2022, there were no hull losses or fatal accidents involving passenger jet aircraft in 2023.

And yeah that's worldwide.

posted by spitbull at 8:05 AM on April 1

We're flying to the midwest later this week. It's on a 737 MAX. I'm not super stoked about that, but I also believe that Boeing and its operators are under incredibly intense scrutiny right now, and they really, really can't afford to have another door plug sort of issue, so if anything, Boeing and its operators are paying Extra Super Attention right now to making sure 737 MAXes do not make any further headlines.
posted by xedrik at 12:22 PM on April 1

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