WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the U.S. is issuing an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the wake of a crash of an Ethiopian Airliner that killed 157 people.
Many nations in the world had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, but until now, the Federal Aviation Administration had been saying that it didn’t have any data to show the jets are unsafe.
Trump said Wednesday that the FAA would be making the announcement soon to ground the planes.
He says any plane currently in the air will go to its destination and then be grounded. According to the president, pilots and airlines have been notified. He says the safety of the American people is of “paramount concern.”
As of 2:50 p.m. Wednesday, six flights out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport had been canceled (although three from Denver may be due to weather conditions) and 11 flights were rescheduled. ABIA told KXAN it has one Boeing 737 Max 8 grounded and that’s the only one expected to stay in Austin. According to the airport, most of the other canceled or delayed flights come from a major snow storm going through the Rocky Mountains.
Airlines responded Wednesday afternoon with immediate removal of all Max 8s from its flight schedules. Southwest Airlines said that out of its fleet of over 750 Boeing 737s, Max 8s account for less than five percent of its daily flights anyway.
Southwest announced it would allow affected customers to rebook without penalty, saying:
Any Customer booked on a cancelled MAX 8 flight can rebook on alternate flights without any additional fees or fare differences within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city pairs. A Travel Advisory with additional information for Customers will be posted on Southwest.com.
United Airlines announced it would comply with the FAA order and ground its 14 Max aircraft, which it says account for roughly 40 flights a day. The airline said while it does not anticipate a significant operational impact, it will work with customers to minimize travel disruption.
Customers do not need to cancel and rebook as we will swap aircraft or automatically rebook you. If you require further assistance, please direct message us here.— United Airlines (@united) March 13, 2019
American Airlines announced in a statement Wednesday afternoon that it was also grounding its Boeing 737 Max fleet “out of an abundance of caution.” The airline says its teams will make every effort to rebook customers as quickly as possible.
The 737 Max 8s are not very common in the U.S. because of how new they are. Hundreds were ordered but were not yet on the market.
Alex Evangelista, a passenger flying to Austin from Seattle, said: “It can’t be blown out of proportion. Surely there are accidents but I didn’t notice anything in my day of travels that would have caught me off guard. Just walking into the airport without having heard about it, I would not have guessed there was anything different.”