President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that U.S. regulators would ground all Boeing 737 MAX jets, joining the rest of the world in stopping flights of a new plane that's been involved in two fatal crashes.
Trump reportedly issued the emergency order Wednesday afternoon. He told reporters that any of the 72 737 MAX jets currently used by U.S. airlines that were in the air would be allowed to land at their final destination.
Any 737 Max-8 currently in the air will be allowed to finish trip to its destination & then be grounded, Trump says in Oval Office
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) March 13, 2019
“The safety of American people, and all people, is our paramount concern,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “Hopefully they'll very quickly come up with the answer. But until they do, the planes are grounded.”
It follows an international race to get some of Boeing's newest planes out of the air after a pair of accidents. Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 left 157 dead, the second tragic accident involving the 737 MAX in just a five-month span. Nearly 190 were killed in October, when one of Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air's 737 MAX planes plunged into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff.
But as governments and airlines alike brought the planes to the ground, U.S. regulators resisted, saying they had no reason to ground the planes.
Boeing also insisted the planes are safe to fly – and its CEO called President Donald Trump to urge against grounding the planes, according to the New York Times. The plane manufacturer has said it will release a software update to address some issues that aviation experts believe may be a factor in both crashes by April.
But by Wednesday morning, the U.S. was the only major nation still allowing 737 MAX flights. Canadian regulators banned Boeing 737 MAX jets from their airspace on Wednesday morning, as Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau blocked those planes from flying with a travel notice.
Just three U.S. airlines are flying the 737 MAX: American Airlines, Southwest, and United Airlines. Twitter accounts for each airline were full of responding to passenger requests to change aircrafts given the safety concerns.
Trump's order will likely hit Southwest the hardest – it has 34 of these planes in its fleet. The airline had already indicated it would waive any fare differences for passengers uncomfortable flying on the 737 MAX.
American Airlines has 24 of the planes in its fleet. And United, meanwhile, has 14 737 MAX 9s in their fleet – a different subtype of the plane than the two that have gone down. But many countries have banned both types of the 737 MAX, and Trump's order will also pull those planes out of the skies.
Trump's order will mean all 387 737 MAX jets worldwide are out of the skies.
Air travel is one of the safest ways to get around, and these crashes and the worldwide alarm they set off don't change that. But the latest crash has set off an international panic, causing consumer confidence to collapse.
Only time will tell whether there are serious issues with the Boeing 737 MAX. But clearly, airlines and regulators decided it was better to be safe than sorry.