You can filter the Boeing 737 Max 9 out of your flight search

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These resources and tools can help travelers avoid the aircraft

 

U.S. airlines expect to return some Boeing 737 Max 9 planes to service Friday, after a weeks-long grounding order from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA issued the order on Jan. 5 after a door plug blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight so the model could be inspected. The grounding of about 170 aircraft caused widespread cancellations.

Alaska Airlines’ first Max 9 flight is scheduled to take off from Seattle to San Diego around 2 p.m. local time Friday, the airline said. United, the other U.S. airline that operates the jet, said it plans to return the fleet to scheduled service Sunday. The carrier said it could use a Max 9 as a spare Friday or Saturday if needed, however.

When the Boeing 737 Max was grounded in 2019 after two deadly crashes, some passengers vowed to avoid the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration lifted the ban on all variants of the 737 Max 20 months later.

However, travelers didn’t avoid the aircraft en masse once it returned, as anticipated by some in the industry. The factor may have been timing. The ungrounding was in November 2020 at the height of the pandemic, when passenger volumes were a fraction of a typical travel period.

It remains to be seen whether travelers will avoid the Max 9 in the long run. If you’re scheduled to fly on one — or plan to book a flight in the coming weeks — here are some options to get on a different aircraft.

How do I check if I’m booking on a Max 9?

Before you book a flight online, check the aircraft type scheduled for your desired route. On search engines such as Google Flights, the grid of results usually displays the model along with the departure time, the flight number, any layover city and other details.

Travel booking site Kayak offers a specific aircraft filter on the left-hand side of its flight search results page. Travelers can include or exclude certain aircraft models from a flight search.

A Kayak spokesperson said usage of the 737 Max filter increased threefold in the days after the Alaska Airlines incident. The company released an even more granular feature — the ability to distinguish between the Max 8 and Max 9 planes. Previously, both Max models were lumped together.

Even if you have booked yourself on a different aircraft, the airline could swap out planes at the last minute because of an operations, mechanical or weather-related issue.

What airlines fly the Max 9?

Among U.S. carriers, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are the only operators of the 737 Max 9. Alaska said on its website that it plans to bring its first few planes into scheduled service Friday, adding more every day as inspections are completed. That’s expected to be done over the next week. United intends to return the jets to scheduled service Sunday.

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A total of 171 aircraft were taken out of operation with the FAA grounding order this month. International carriers Copa, Aeromexico and Turkish Airlines also pulled their Max 9 planes from service. Copa was the first to return a Max 9 to service Thursday, Reuters reported. Updates from Aeromexico and Turkish Airlines were not immediately available.

What if you’re already booked on a 737 Max 9?

Alaska and United are currently offering change and cancel waivers for those booked on this aircraft type. Travelers can either change their flight without a fee or cancel their flight for a credit or refund.

Travelers who are scheduled to fly on a 737 Max 9 aircraft through Feb. 9 can call Alaska’s reservation office at 1-800-252-7522 for free rebooking on a different aircraft, if available. No difference in fare will apply for new travel in the same cabin. Alaska will offer a full refund to passengers who are unable to be reaccommodated, the airline said.

United said customers who were scheduled on Max 9 flights and purchased tickets on or before Jan. 6 can reschedule their trip, and the airline will waive the change fee and fare difference. In addition, if you cancel or don’t take your trip, you can get a full refund for Max 9-operated flights. The airline says original travel dates must be between Jan. 6 and 28, and new flights have to take place by Feb. 3 to avoid any fare difference.

After the flexible travel policy expires, Alaska said guests can call the reservations team to be put on a different flight for no additional charge if they don’t want to fly on a Max 9. United said it would “work with customers directly to ensure they feel comfortable flying” and will move people to the next available flight.

More travel news

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Bad behavior: Entitled tourists are running amok, defacing the Colosseum, getting rowdy in Bali and messing with wild animals in national parks. Some destinations are fighting back with public awareness campaigns — or just by telling out-of-control visitors to stay away.

Safety concerns: A door blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 jet, leaving passengers traumatized — but without serious injuries. The ordeal led to widespread flight cancellations after the jet was grounded, and some travelers have taken steps to avoid the plane in the future. The incident has also sparked a fresh discussion about whether it’s safe to fly with a baby on your lap.

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