In the shadow of a recent incident involving an Alaska Airlines flight, where a door plug blew out from a Boeing 737 Max 9, Kayak has observed a significant shift in user behavior.
The travel search engine reports a staggering 15-fold increase in the usage of its aircraft filter.
This surge reflects a growing trend among travelers: a heightened desire to know the exact model of aircraft prior to booking their flights.
Fliers avoiding the Boeing 737 Max aircraft
The genesis of this trend can be traced back to an unsettling event three weeks ago. It was then that travelers’ trust in aircraft safety was shaken, prompting them to seek more information about their flights.
Recognizing this concern, Kayak CEO Steve Hafner emphasized the company’s commitment to providing peace of mind. “Kayak makes it easy for concerned travelers to avoid 737 Max flights,” he stated, acknowledging the nervousness surrounding this particular aircraft model.
Filtering flights is made easier by aircraft type
In response to this increased demand, Kayak has strategically enhanced its platform. The aircraft filter, once a more obscure feature, now takes a prominent position, readily accessible to users. Moreover, Kayak has refined its search capabilities, allowing users to distinguish between the 737 Max 8 and 737 Max 9 models. Previously, these models were grouped together.
Boeing 737 Max’s tragic troubled past
This feature traces its roots to a response to earlier Boeing-involved tragedies – the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash in March 2019 and the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in 2018. Both disasters involved 737 Max planes and led to the initial creation of the aircraft filter. The recent surge in the filter’s usage marks a notable departure from its previously modest use, though Kayak did not disclose specific usage statistics.
FAA says 737 Max 9 can fly again yet consumers still wary
The recent decision by the FAA to lift the grounding order of the Boeing 737 Max 9, following thorough inspections, has done little to assuage the concerns of wary flyers. Despite regulatory assurances, a segment of the traveling public remains apprehensive about boarding any 737 Max aircraft.
Hafner, while advocating for the use of the filter during booking, also urges continued vigilance. He notes that airlines frequently substitute aircraft, a practice that necessitates travelers to verify their aircraft type even after purchasing their tickets.
Not all travel sites offer aircraft sorting in searches
This heightened consumer awareness around aircraft types is not universally catered to in the travel industry. Competitors like Google Flights display aircraft types in search results but stop short of offering a dedicated filter. Similarly, Skyscanner, another major player in the field, does not currently provide such a filter.
Kurt’s key takeaways
As travelers navigate through a landscape marked by safety concerns and a desire for transparency, Kayak’s adaptation to these evolving needs reflects a broader shift in the travel industry towards greater consumer empowerment and awareness. I just checked my upcoming Alaska Airlines flight and switched to an American non-737 Max flight, opting to fly across the country on an Airbus A321 instead.
For the time being, some airlines are showing consideration for passengers wary of traveling on the 737 Max aircraft by, in some instances, offering the option to switch to different flights, steering clear of the aircraft that has faced criticism over its manufacturing standards.
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