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Some travelers are changing flights to avoid Boeing airplanes

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  4 weeks ago  •  28 comments

By:   Elizabeth Chuck

Some travelers are changing flights to avoid Boeing airplanes
Incidents involving Boeing airplanes have set back some passengers who had overcome their fear of flying. Several have changed flights to avoid Boeing aircraft.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


One nervous traveler touches the outside of the airplane while boarding and prays before takeoff. Another brings anti-anxiety medication. A third has been watching YouTube videos narrated by pilots to understand what happens during flights.

Such rituals have helped anxious passengers overcome their fear of flying. But in recent months, several travelers said, news of issues on Boeing planes has made these strategies insufficient and has threatened their ability to walk down the jetway. So they have come up with a plan: avoid flying on Boeing aircraft, even if it means re-booking flights.

"I just can't step on that plane," said Leila Amineddoleh, an art lawyer who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. "Even if the chance of getting hurt on a Boeing flight, even with all these incidents, is slim."

The chance is indeed slim: Aviation is the safest form of transportation by far, with significantly fewer fatalities than motor vehicles and trains, and aviation-related deaths and injuries are at nearly all-time lows.

But after a series of quality control incidents, starting with the dramatic door panel blowout on a Boeing 737 Max midair during an Alaska Airlines flight in January, Amineddoleh prefers to fly on non-Boeing planes. She recently asked for a refund for upcoming flights she had booked to Miami and Europe, and bought replacement tickets on Airbus flights, despite a layover in her new Europe itinerary.

"It's an inconvenience," she said, especially because she and her husband are traveling with their young daughter. "But I'm not going to feel guilty, because I think her safety is more important than fatigue."

Amineddoleh and three others told NBC News that the headlines about Boeing have made them uneasy, even though it's not clear whether the problems were the result of manufacturing, maintenance or other issues. Earlier this month, flames came out of the engine of a Boeing 737-900 operated by United Airlines; dozens of injuries were reported aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Latam Airlines that experienced a sudden drop; and a tire fell off a Boeing 777 operated by United.

This week, NBC News reported on previously undisclosed issues related to a wiring flaw with the Boeing Max, which has been plagued with troubles since two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019. Adding to the negative sentiment has been federal scrutiny of the safety culture at Boeing, along with the apparent suicide of a Boeing whistleblower.

When asked for a response to the hesitancy among some consumers to fly on its aircraft, Boeing declined to comment. The company has previously said that it is "squarely focused on taking significant, demonstrated action with transparency at every turn."

Airlines have also said they are committed to safety: Alaska Airlines' CEO "sincerely apologized" after the January blowout, and United's CEO said in a letter to customers earlier this week that the recent incidents, while unrelated, "have our attention and have sharpened our focus."

Still, aviation industry watchdog groups say air travelers are concerned enough that they are inquiring how they can select non-Boeing flights.

"The good side is consumers are becoming more informed," said Ed Pierson, a former senior manager at Boeing's 737 factory who is now executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group The Foundation for Aviation Safety. "But here's the sad part: You shouldn't have to be dealing with this."

Travel search engine Kayak, which offers the option to include or exclude certain plane models from flight searches, said there has been a spike in people seeking information about types of aircraft since the door-plug blowout.

"While the overall fraction of users filtering the 737 remains small, usage increased following the Alaska Airlines incident in January," Kayak CEO Steve Hafner said in a statement, adding that use of the filter was 15 times higher in January than in December but has since dipped to 10 times higher.

Both Kayak and aviation experts cautioned that airlines often substitute planes at the last minute, so customers who book non-Boeing aircraft may end up getting a Boeing anyway. There aren't many other options: Planes made by Airbus, and sometimes Embraer, are the other common ones for major carriers.

Some airlines don't fly Boeing planes at all — including Spirit and JetBlue. Others, such as Southwest, operate an all-Boeing 737 fleet.

Stephanie Walls, an IT project manager who lives in Houston and describes herself as an anxious flyer, said she recently changed an upcoming flight to Philadelphia to be on an Airbus. Despite the routines she has created to make flying less nerve-wracking — including praying, choosing a window seat and watching the flight tracker — she is not confident that Boeing has taken enough action to improve the safety of its planes.

"We really need to see that change being put in place pretty urgently," Walls said.

Adrian Rojas, a Chicago-based communications consultant for a labor union, has done therapy to ease his fear of flying and takes anti-anxiety medication on flights. Unlike the other passengers who said they are avoiding all Boeing planes, Rojas specifically doesn't want to fly Boeing's Max series — and changed a return flight from Austin, Texas, for next month so he could be on an Airbus instead of a 737 Max.

"I just know that it's something I would be thinking about a lot right as I get on the plane, so I'm just trying to limit that for my mental health," he said.

Even some passengers who feel relaxed in the sky are changing their flights. Leonyce Moses, a consultant who lives in Richmond, Virginia, loves to travel and said she flew one to two times a month last year. She had to pay about $70 extra to change an upcoming Phoenix trip to be on an Airbus instead of a Boeing plane, but "it was worth it for my safety," she said.

She acknowledged that aviation is very safe but said she is spooked nonetheless.

"I am not willing to take that risk," Moses said.

A clinically diagnosed extreme fear of flying, known as aerophobia or aviophobia, is rare: Some estimates put it as low as 2.5% of the population. But as much as 40% of people say they have anxiety about flying.

The condition is treatable, according to Elizabeth Austin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UMass Chan Medical School. She recommended cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, which she said can be done using virtual reality programs that simulate getting on a plane.

She said she supported people with a phobia of flying switching their tickets to be on different aircraft — as long as they are realistic about how few dangers they face on any plane.

"It's still an extraordinarily low-risk situation," she said.

That is not enough for flyers like Amineddoleh to get on a Boeing plane. But she thinks she will be open to it again — someday.

"I really do hope that things change at Boeing, in part because it really makes my life easier," she said. "When I fly to Europe, I always take direct flights. It's the first time in years that I haven't."


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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1  Buzz of the Orient    4 weeks ago

I'm happy to not having to ever fly again, but if I did I'd make damned sure the plane wasn't a Boeing. 

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Expert
1.1  Krishna  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    4 weeks ago
I'm happy to not having to ever fly again, but if I did I'd make damned sure the plane wasn't a Boeing.

I'm not anticipating flying in the near future, but if I were I would make sure not to go on a Boeing plane. 

One incident might be an outlier-- but there's definitely a pattern (sub-par safety checks, quality control, maintenance ...there's a pattern here. Something is very wrong...).

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @1.1    4 weeks ago

That's exactly what I've been saying, but look at how many deniers there are right here on this article.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1.1.2  JohnRussell  replied to  Krishna @1.1    4 weeks ago

I truly dont give a shit about Boeing , but this is ridiculous. Boeing planes fly 45, 000 passenger flights EVERY DAY. 

It is safe. 

Get back to me when there are 100 incidents a day. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
1.1.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @1.1.2    4 weeks ago

Another opportunity to quote the anti-Semitic Prime Minister of Canada McKenzie King back in the 1940s when asked how many Jewish refugees he would allow to come to Canada, his reply applies to how I will answer your comment:

"None is too many."

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
2  Drinker of the Wry    4 weeks ago

I imagine that it's a challenge to do the math on miles flown/fatalities by airline manufacturer after subtracting 9-11, shoot downs, runway accidents, etc.

 
 
 
Thomas
Senior Guide
3  Thomas    4 weeks ago

Some people have irrational fears. Usually, they don't have a great deal to do with a major corporation's bottom line. 

I wonder what the relative safety of driving across town is compared to an airline mishap. Something tells me that the airplane is still much safer, despite all of the recent publicity. 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Junior Expert
3.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Thomas @3    4 weeks ago

Indeed,  fearful people frequently don’t do any risk analysis, there fears are based on emotions, not science.

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Expert
3.2  Krishna  replied to  Thomas @3    4 weeks ago
I wonder what the relative safety of driving across town is compared to an airline mishap. Something tells me that the airplane is still much safer, despite all of the recent publicity

Its been that way for quite a while-- per mile traveled airplanes are much safer than cars.

However, recently it seems pretty clear that boeing is an exception.

(If I wanted to risk my life I'd do something like sky-diving-- or motocycle racing. Dying or getting seriously injured for life would be much more fun than by flying in a faulty Boeing airplane)

 
 
 
Gsquared
Professor Principal
4  Gsquared    4 weeks ago

As one of my friends recently told me: "If it's Boeing, I'm not going."

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Gsquared @4    4 weeks ago

I'm amused by the bravado indicated by some NT members - I can just see them thumping their chests like a gorilla.  I guess that's to be expected from people who live in a country where people consider it normal where there are more guns than people and shootings every single day (2 were reported on Microsoft Bing today), the land where John Wayne and Gary Cooper are the heroes. 

Every mode of travel has its risks and they are normally relatively equal for each mode, whether it be planes, trains or automobiles (sounds like a good title for a movie).  However when a particular make of airplane has had flaws such as in navigational electronics that have caused crashes, and parts falling off the airplanes (Thank God nobody was sitting without using a seatbelt in the seats next to where the door fell off) the risk of problems from that particular manufacturer is way above the norm and intelligent people will take that into consideration.   

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
4.1.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.1    4 weeks ago
Every mode of travel has its risks and they are normally relatively equal for each mode, whether it be planes, trains or automobiles (sounds like a good title for a movie).  However when a particular make of airplane has had flaws such as in navigational electronics that have caused crashes, and parts falling off the airplanes (Thank God nobody was sitting without using a seatbelt in the seats next to where the door fell off) the risk of problems from that particular manufacturer is way above the norm and intelligent people will take that into consideration.   

According to Bing, there are 45,000 passenger flights using Boeing airplanes EVERY DAY in the United States. 

By any objective standard fear of Boeing airplanes is irrational. 

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.1.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @4.1.1    4 weeks ago

That doesn't change my opinion.  I would compare the construction flaws on a per airplane statistical basis.  The number of flights per day doesn't prove anything.  Your figures won't stop me from flying if I have to fly, my analysis will stop me from flying on a Boeing airplane. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
4.1.3  Sean Treacy  replied to  JohnRussell @4.1.1    4 weeks ago
objective standard fear of Boeing airplanes is irrational. 

Its numerical illiteracy. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
4.1.4  JohnRussell  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.1.2    4 weeks ago
The number of flights per day doesn't prove anything. 

Of course it does. 

It it appears there are more than 300,000 passenger flights, not passengers, passenger flights every week in the United States with essentially 0 crashes or deaths.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.1.5  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  JohnRussell @4.1.4    4 weeks ago

When a passenger airplane falls apart while airborne because there has not been as much time or control put into its manufacture because the company's powers to be are more concerned about there being enough money in the bottom line to satisfy their need for individual personal multi-million dollar annual compensation, I will damn well take that into consideration when I'm careful about who the airplane's manufacturer is.  I don't give a shit if it's only one chance in a trillion that something bad might happen. 

Ever watch the movie Rain Man?  Remember when Dustin Hoffman said he would only fly on Quantas, because they had the best accident record?   

 
 
 
Thomas
Senior Guide
4.1.6  Thomas  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.1.5    3 weeks ago

How do you know that the actual quality of Airbus products is better than Boeing products? 

From  Airbus vs Boeing Which is Better | Planes | Crashes | Safety

The statistics indicate that Boeing aircraft have a lower frequency of crashes per million flights compared to Airbus. Specifically, Boeing’s rate of one crash per 1.84 million flights demonstrates a higher level of operational safety in this metric than Airbus’s rate of one crash per 0.81 million flights. This comparison, however, is nuanced and should be considered in the context of several important factors:
  1. Fleet Age and Usage : Boeing has a longer history and a larger cumulative number of flights, which could influence the crash rate. Older models with extensive service records might impact overall statistics.
  2. Model Diversity and Volume : Both manufacturers have a range of models with varying safety records. High-volume, older models like Boeing’s 737 Classic series and Airbus’s A320 family have different operational histories and improvements over time.
  3. Technological Advances and Learning Curve : Both Airbus and Boeing have continuously incorporated technological advancements and safety improvements into their aircraft designs. Incidents and accidents have led to industry-wide learning and enhancements in aviation safety protocols.
  4. Global Operations and Environmental Factors : The operational environment, including regional airline practices, maintenance standards, and flight conditions, also significantly affects safety records. Some crashes may be more attributable to these factors than to aircraft design or manufacturer faults.
 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.1.7  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Thomas @4.1.6    3 weeks ago

Well, I don't see reports like this about Airbus.  This was posted today in Canada's Global News:

Ryanair CEO says airline found parts missing from Boeing planes

LINK ->

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Expert
4.2  Krishna  replied to  Gsquared @4    4 weeks ago
As one of my friends recently told me: "If it's Boeing, I'm not going."

Your friend is a poet,

But doesn't know it!

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Expert
4.2.1  Krishna  replied to  Krishna @4.2    4 weeks ago
"If it's Boeing, I'm not going."

If its an Airbus,

I'd not make a fuss!

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
4.2.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @4.2.1    4 weeks ago

LOL

Did you know that on another article you were criticized for catching a typo error someone made and making a joke about it?  You should be more careful on this site, I learned long ago that there are very few around here who enjoy having fun.  But notwithstanding that I will continue to post movie quizzes that are just easy fun games to play, and the jokes my brother emails to me. 

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
5  Greg Jones    4 weeks ago

The 737 airframe has been one of the best and most reliable over the years. The problems started when they started modifying the original design to enable larger and more fuel efficient engines to be installed. This got to the point of affecting weight and balance and handling characteristics of the plane. The article below pretty much explains what went wrong.

The other incidents appear to be engine related, which Boeing purchases from probably GE, or maintenance and crew errors.

Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System - Wikipedia

 
 
 
Robert in Ohio
Professor Guide
6  Robert in Ohio    4 weeks ago

Flying is safer than driving.

They will not fly Boeing un til it is the only way to get where they want to go.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
8  JBB    4 weeks ago

Yes, I suppose some do. And, some filters eskew Southwest Airlines because they serve all those tiny little bags of peanuts...

 
 
 
Krishna
Professor Expert
8.1  Krishna  replied to  JBB @8    4 weeks ago
tiny little bags of peanuts...

Tiny little bags of peanuts?

No wonder they have so many accidents! jrSmiley_78_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
8.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Krishna @8.1    4 weeks ago

jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif

Thanks for my first big laugh out loud of the day.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Participates
8.2  Greg Jones  replied to  JBB @8    4 weeks ago
 
 

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