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BOEING: 737 MAX 9s allowed back in the air. Alaska Airlines takes US$150 million hit

BOEING: 737 MAX 9s allowed back in the air. Alaska Airlines takes US$150 million hit

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set the conditions for Boeing to get the 737 MAX 9 rest back in the air. It involves an inspection and maintenance process that Boeing must implement for each of the 171 grounded aircraft to enable them to return to service.

What’s more, the FAA will not allow Boeing to amp-up production of the model.

a man sitting in an airplane
Alaska Airlines 737 MAX incident from Twitter (X) @petemuntean


As you will probably remember, on 5 January, a blind exit door blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight. Besides a couple of mobile phones and a shirt, no one was injured when part of the aircraft drifted earthward. As a result of this exit door plug failure, the FAA grounded all these aircraft models in the USA.

Naturally, being the USA, the failure on Alaska Flight 1282 has led to a multi-passenger lawsuit. This incident must be added to the previous dire history of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which, after two crashes and the death of nearly 400 people, was also suspended from flying for 20 months.

Although the exact cause of the door plug failing midflight on the 737 MAX 9 was due to the lack of, or bad installation of some bolts that hold the ‘door’ in place.

a group of people standing around a large circle with a large sign
Alaska Airlines a member of OneWorld [Alaska Airlines/OneWorld]

What the FAA will do

They have laid out new maintenance and inspection regimes that airlines will need to implement before the Boeing 737 MAX 9 goes back into service. The new procedures will ensure that the installation of the door plus is in compliance with the original design specs, which have been certified as safe.

Airlines – Alaska and United – are expected to complete in the next couple of days, with aircraft returning to the air on Sunday USA time.

FAA to undertake more rigorous oversight of Boeing

The FAA gets in your face when you have been a naughty airline! The FAA is increasing its oversight of the aircraft manufacturer Boeing. It will put a capacity limit on the manufacturing of new 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing’s compliance with manufacturing requirements will be scrutinised, using all its enforcement authority powers. It will be monitoring data and identifying risks like a hawk, and analysing any proposed reforms to increase safety and quality control.

‘This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing. We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.’

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker

Losses for Alaska Airlines

Alaska operate 65 MAX 9 aircraft, all of which were grounded after the incident, resulting in around 3,000 flights being cancelled in January, according to Alaska Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Harrison

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci says grounding its Boeing 737 Max 9 planes will cost the airline $150 million. They will be going after Boeing to cover the losses.

Before this incident, Alaska Airlines expected to grow its capacity by 3% to 5% during 2024. With the groundings and reputational damage, it expects growth to be under 3%.

Overall, Alaska Airlines posted a net loss of US$2 million for the fourth quarter on operating revenue of $2.6 billion. Alaska had a net income of $235 million for the full year and a record operating revenue of $10.4 billion. 

a group of airplanes with faces on tail fin
Alaska Airlines aircraft

2PAXfly Takeout

It’s good for the airline, passengers and Boeing that the aircraft grounding was resolved quickly. The final report of the 5 January incidentis yet be issued. We won’t have a clear understanding of what went wrong until then. At least it looks like the cause is bolts not being installed. Or being installed without being tightened. Both faults can be rectified easily.

This finding tends to confirm all the rumours and whistleblowers who have said how much the Boeing company has changed from an engineering and safety-driven company to one led by GE-trained bean counters. It also gives credence to the numerous reports of shoddy workmanship and oversight of manufacturing.

Although neigh saying is not my natural default position, let’s just say that this is two strikes for Boeing. A third could see this behemoth of the USA economy tank.

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