The pressure on Boeing over the airworthiness of the 737 MAX, which has been grounded in many countries after fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, is not likely to make much of an impact on the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. That’s because the relatively new planes hardly fly through the airport.
Nationwide, major airlines like Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines all fly 737 MAX jets, but only Southwest Airlines flies them through Seattle, and few make their way through Sea-Tac, airport spokesman Perry Cooper said. Neither Alaska nor Delta airlines flies the jets yet.
Sea-Tac averages 1,200 to 1,300 flights a day, out of which “only a handful” are 737 MAX jets, Cooper said.
A review of flight-traffic data published on Flightradar24, a flight-tracking service, showed only eight flights by 737 MAX jets, all operated by Southwest Airlines, had landed or taken off at Sea-Tac since Monday morning, as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, a 737 MAX 8 jet, killed 157 people Sunday and investigators are working to determine a cause of the crash. It came after the crash of Lion Air Flight JT610 more than four months ago, in which 189 people died. A preliminary investigation of the Lion Air crash by Indonesian authorities found that a faulty sensor caused a tug of war between the airliner’s pilot and an automated system designed to prevent a stall.
On social media, some flyers said they were spooked by the recent crashes and wanted to avoid flying on 737 MAX jets. Websites like FlightAware and FlightRadar24 allow users to look up flight information in advance, including which type of aircraft is scheduled to fly. Southwest Airlines also provides that information on its website, as customers book flights.
The airline’s change policy allows customers to adjust flights without a fee. Typically the airline only charges the difference of cost between tickets. The company is allowing an exception for concerned flyers.
“While we are not issuing refunds of nonrefundable fares, we are working with any concerned Customers individually who wish to rebook their flight to another aircraft type. As a courtesy, we will waive any fare difference,” Brian Parrish, a Southwest Airlines spokesman, said in an email.
In response to the most recent tragedy, China, Indonesia and Morocco grounded their MAX fleets Monday. Europe’s aviation-safety regulator suspended all Boeing 737 Max operations in Europe on Tuesday.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates aviation safety, said Tuesday that its review of the Ethiopia crash, so far, had found “no systemic performance issues and no basis to order grounding of the aircraft.”
Similarly, Boeing has stuck by its plane, and it said it does not have reason to issue “new guidance” to operators of the plane.
Southwest operates more than 750 Boeing 737s, including 34 MAX 8s.
“We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of the MAX 8” Parrish said. “We don’t have any changes planned to our MAX 8 operations.”
Parish added that the planes can serve a number of Southwest routes and destinations.
“Since our fleet types are interchangeable, the MAX can serve any of our locations, and it is not based in any particular city or region.”