Boeing Commercial Airlines President Stan Deal outlined steps the company is taking to regain customer confidence after the grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 aircraft.
In a letter to employees on Friday, Deal announced that Alaska Airlines has resumed flights with Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 and will soon be followed by United Airlines, Aeromexico and Turkish Airlines. The planes are back in the air after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Boeing’s detailed inspection and maintenance process for all 171 MAX 9s with plug doors.
“Our long-term focus is on improving our quality so that we can regain the confidence of our customers, our regulator and the flying public. Frankly, we have disappointed and let them down,” Deal said. “We are deeply sorry for the significant disruption and frustration of our customers, some of whom have been publicly and unfairly criticized. We have heard from our regulator, which has announced it won’t allow 737 MAX production increases until they are satisfied we have improved our quality control. We own these issues and will make them right.”
Alaska Airlines resumed service of its 737 MAX 9 fleet on Friday with a flight from Seattle to San Diego. Friday’s flight was the first since the FAA grounded all 737 MAX 9 planes with a plug door in response to the high-profile accident earlier this month — when the plug door panel on one of Alaska Airlines’ planes blew off mid-flight in Portland, Oregon.
The carrier said it began inspections of its MAX 9 fleet on Wednesday night after the FAA cleared Boeing’s inspection criteria. It expects to complete the inspection of all 65 of its 737 MAX 9 planes by the end of next week, allowing it to operate a full flight schedule.
“Each of our 737-9 MAX will return to service only after the rigorous inspections are completed and each plane is deemed airworthy according to FAA requirements,” Alaska said in a statement. “The individual inspections are expected to take up to 12 hours per aircraft.”
Deal said Boeing has “worked diligently” to create inspection criteria that would allow aircraft to be put back into service and that the leadership team is in the process of evaluating “hundreds” of ideas submitted by employees for quality improvements.
“Over the last century, the people of Boeing have faced and overcome significant challenges. This is one of those times,” he wrote. “We have to be better. We have to deliver perfect airplanes each and every time.”
A Copa Airlines jet became the first MAX 9 aircraft to return to service on Thursday.
Alaska and United Airlines, the two U.S. carriers that fly the MAX 9, have canceled thousands of flights this month since the Jan. 6 grounding of 171 MAX 9s.
FOX Business’ Daniella Genovese and Reuters contributed to this report.