Rebooks for passengers concerned about 737 MAX

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An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from Los Angeles approaches to land at Washington Reagan National Airport in Washington DC on March 13. Xinhua

CHICAGO (Reuters) – United Airlines Chief Executive Oscar Munoz promised on Wednesday to accommodate any passengers concerned about flying Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets once regulators deem the aircraft safe to fly again.

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United is the only one of the three US MAX operators to make such an announcement so far. Southwest Airlines Co, the world’s largest MAX operator, said on Wednesday discussions were still ongoing.

American Airlines Group Inc said on Wednesday “customers can be assured that our pilots would never operate an unsafe aircraft,” echoing other carriers’ insistence that safety is paramount to putting the globally grounded jets back in the air.

Still, following two fatal crashes of the MAX model within months, an Ethiopian Airlines jet in March after a Lion Air jet in October, Mr Munoz said he wants customers to feel as comfortable as possible.

“If people need any kind of adjustments we will absolutely rebook them,” Mr Munoz told reporters after the airline’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

Mr Munoz said it was too soon to discuss whether Boeing would pick up the tab. None of the shareholders at the meeting questioned the company’s MAX plans. United is in the midst of a growth plan that has fueled a 17 percent share rise over the past year.

Global regulators are meeting with the US Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday to discuss Boeing’s proposed software fix and training updates for the MAX, which has been grounded since mid-March.

The timing of regulatory approval is still unclear, and Munoz said that is only the first step, with independent analysis and public and employee confidence critical in the Chicago-based airline’s strategy for eventually flying the jets again.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week showed US fliers still value ticket prices over aircraft models when choosing flights.

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