Weeks after the news broke that an upstart competitor in China managed its first successful commercial jetliner flight, U.S.-based Boeing faced another public relations setback, having to announce the company has grounded all flights of its new single-aisle 737 Max. The reason stated, concerns about the quality of the jet’s new engines. Sure, the grounding is necessary, but the reason is not one to inspire caution.
Here is a portion of the official statement released by the media: "Out of an abundance of caution, we decided to temporarily suspend MAX flights. The step is consistent with our priority focus on safety for all who use and fly our products . . . "
Worried consumers should know that this grounding will not affect any currently scheduled flights because Boeing has not delivered any jets to its customers. Then again, the news isn’t great, because the first delivery was supposed to happen later this month. Boeing claims the engine issues won’t change the delivery date, yet some have doubts.
In an attempt at full disclosure, Boeing said it must inspect the interior core of its advanced Leap-1B engine, which is manufactured by General Electric and Safran, a French company. The potential problem was found after the completed engines were delivered to inspection locations in the United States. When Boeing engineers found the issue, they immediately called for the jets to be grounded and further tests to be run.
Aviation enthusiast Daniel Palmier said "Further confusing the issue, and the consumer public, is the fact that the engine components come from two separate suppliers, which means not all the engines that were made have the troublesome issue. But which ones, and who’s to blame?
"These are questions Boeing will have to answer before making their first delivery. These questions may not be as important to the customer, but they will be of paramount importance to any potential fliers who see these reports."
Consumers are paying close attention to airline news after a rash of horrible public relations about the airlines dominated recent news cycles. Already conditioned to believe that airlines care more about profits than people — whether that charge is fair or not — any additional negative news will further erode consumer confidence in an industry facing a major public relations turning point.
Even news such as one airline cutting a few inches of legroom in economy class got headlines, as well as strong viewing on social media. The idea that a new jet’s engine "may" be suspect has a much higher "scare" factor than losing an inch or two in economy.
Boeing doesn’t seem to be worried, though. They are going ahead with delivery to their first customer, a budget Malaysian airline, this month — but what then?
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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