Boeing Unlucky 737 Max: "The uncertainty of passengers is understandable"

Boeing's most important aircraft model 737 Max 8 has to stay on the ground after two serious accidents. In an interview, aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt explains the impact this has on air traffic and on the company.

After the crash of two identical, new aircraft types within a few months, the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing is under pressure worldwide. After other countries with flight bans had advanced, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday also has the grounding of all machines of the type 737 Max. It is already clear that the machines will probably have to stay grounded for months.

The US aerospace company is thus just by his hopeful box-office hit into a serious crisis of confidence. In addition to the potential threat of compensation and damage claims from customers, Boeing can only deliver machines ordered late due to the flight bans. Concerned about the Tui Group, who wanted to fly the first machine of this type for the German Tuifly this week from Seattle to Hannover. A Tui spokesman said on Wednesday from a damage in the amount of three million euros - per week. The Boeing share has already plummeted.

Trimmed for less fuel consumption, the Boeing 737 Max 8 is a reissue of the Boeing 737, built since the 1960s, and will be delivered in the new form with larger, more fuel-efficient engines. Competition model is the Airbus A320neo. Aviation expert Heinrich Großbongardt explains what the 737 Max disaster could mean for Boeing.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Großbongardt, for the Boeing 737 Max 8 is now practically a worldwide flight ban. What does it mean for the airlines that already have such machines, if they can not fly with them for months now?

Heinrich Großbongardt: The affected companies can compensate for the capacity shortfall by renting aircraft that are available at short notice.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: This will not be a problem in the winter, but at the latest at Easter or in the summer chaos is programmed.

Großbongardt: If chaos arises, then certainly not because of the 737 Max 8th For this are still too few aircraft of this type in use. Currently only about 50 of them are delivered in Europe. Although replacing these is annoying for the airlines, the gap can be filled.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you expect cancellations of the Max 8 orders by Boeing customers?

Großbongardt: I think that is unlikely. This is also shown by the experiences of the past. For example, on the Dreamliner, the Boeing 787, there were problems that kept the planes on the ground for months. Nevertheless, there were no cancellations. One of the reasons for this is that if you unsubscribe from Boeing today, you'll have to queue up behind Airbus. In addition, the airlines know that teething troubles occur in a new aircraft. That's unavoidable because of the complexity. The important thing is that the problems are resolved as soon as possible.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Several airlines have already announced claims for damages. How big is the prospect of succeeding?

Großbongardt: You will certainly get the costs for the charter of replacement machines replaced. Of course, an additional discount for future orders is also conceivable.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Now there is quite a suspicion that the problems of the 737 Max 8 go much further. The aircraft is not flyable without software. What would it mean if these fears turned out to be well founded?

Großbongardt: Should it turn out that constructive changes - for example at the tail unit - are necessary, this would undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for Boeing. Because such changes would be very expensive. In addition, solving the problem would take much longer, which in turn would massively increase airline problems. After all, the 737 family is one of the workhorses of aviation.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The loss of confidence is not just the airlines. Already several passengers have clearly stated that they would consciously avoid the 737 Max 8.

Großbongardt: That will be a point that airlines have to react to, because the uncertainty is understandable. Experience in the past, however, has shown that skepticism can be overcome quickly once the problems on the machine in question are resolved. That was the case with the A320, but also with the Dreamliner.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In what way does the 737 Max disaster affect the rivalry between Boeing and Airbus?

Großbongardt: The balance of power will not shift significantly. Airbus already has a considerable lead in this segment anyway. However, if it turns out that the problems can not be solved only by new software, but constructive intervention is required, then the matter could possibly look different. But Airbus will not be able to gain much ground. You are already working at the capacity limit with the A320 family.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it already possible to quantify how much damage could be done to Boeing?

Großbongardt: First of all, there are about 300,000 dollars in charter fees, which costs a replacement machine for the affected airlines per month. Add in the cost of the software update, which will certainly cost Boeing a double-digit million amount. Of course, when constructive intervention becomes necessary, it becomes even more expensive. One should not forget the compensation for the survivors of the two aircraft accidents. First complaints are already announced.

ref: spiegel