by Michael J. Shapiro | June 14, 2019
Boeing's 737 Max planes, temporarily grounded around the world following crashes in October of last year and this past March, could be in the air again next year. Safety concerns abound, however, including worries among travel professionals, according to a new survey by the Global Business Travel Association.
Governments and airlines began grounding the aircraft in March, when evidence surfaced that the crashes were caused by a fault in the planes' Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Systems -- or, possibly, the pilots' lack of knowledge of how to override those systems. Boeing completed a software update and developed new pilot training in May, and the company subsequently announced they hope to have the planes flying again by the end of the year. Last week, 155 GBTA buyer members in the U.S. responded to a survey and weighed in on the situation.

Travel managers expressed real concern about boarding those planes: Eight out of 10 said they are either very (38 percent) or somewhat (43 percent) concerned about flying on a Boeing 737 Max. Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) said they are concerned about their travelers' safety, and 11 percent have liability concerns if something should happen to their travelers during a Boeing 737 Max flight.

The travelers themselves are already voicing their worries: Nearly 60 percent of travel managers said employees have expressed a lot (19 percent) or some (40 percent) concern already about flying on those planes for business. Just 12 percent reported that no travelers have expressed concern.

Traveler concerns could well lead to hassles and canceled flights. Two-thirds of travel managers said they believe travelers are either very (19 percent) or somewhat (48 percent) likely to change travel plans to avoid flying on one of the planes in question. Only 13 percent responded that travelers are not very likely to change plans, and just 3 percent claimed their travelers are not at all likely to avoid the 737 Max when booking.

Nearly one-third (32 percent) of travel managers are somewhat confident that the problems plaguing the planes have been corrected and the aircraft are safe to fly. Only 8 percent are very confident the problems have been corrected. Nearly a quarter of respondents are not very confident (23 percent) or not at all confident (8 percent) that the problems have been fixed.

When the time comes, however, travel managers will generally trust government and regulatory agencies in clearing the aircraft for takeoff. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said the FAA is best suited for communicating the plane's safety, and an equal percentage named the National Transportation Safety Board as best qualified to do so. On the other hand, 28 percent said the airlines are best suited to make that call, and even fewer (23 percent) said Boeing is appropriately suited to communicate their planes' safety.