How to know if you are scheduled on a Boeing 737 Max 9 and what your options are

How to know if you are scheduled on a Boeing 737 Max 9 and what your options are

After part of the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 exploded in mid-flight minutes after takeoff from Portland, Ore., on Jan. 5, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded about 170 Max 9 planes, forcing airlines to rely heavily on planes to cancel thousands of flights and inconvenience many passengers.

The FAA approved aircraft inspection and maintenance procedures on Wednesday, paving the way for grounded Max 9 planes to fly again.

Airlines have announced plans to resume flying Max 9s this week. Here’s what passengers need to know about the plane and their rights if they want to avoid flying on it.

Of the 215 Boeing Max 9 planes flown worldwide, United Airlines operates 79, the most of any airline, and Alaska has 65, according to Cirium, an aviation data provider. Their combined fleets represent approximately 70% of the Max 9 jets in service.

Other operators relying on the Max 9 include Copa Airlines, Aeromexico, Turkish Airlines, FlyDubai and Icelandair of Panama.

Airlines in general share detailed information on all plans of their fleets on their websites.

Alaska said in a statement that final inspections, which last up to 12 hours for each aircraft, are underway. The airline said it plans to bring back “first plans” for scheduled flights on Friday.

United said in a statement that it was preparing the Max 9 to return to service starting Sunday. However, the plans “could be used as spares” as early as this Friday, said Josh Freed, a spokesman for United Airlines.

Copa, which has grounded 21 Max 9 projects, said in a statement it would “gradually reinstate previously canceled flights” starting Thursday and return to a full schedule on Sunday.

Travelers can usually find information about their aircraft type when booking their flights online, either during the seat selection process or elsewhere on the airline’s website.

Passengers can also find the aircraft type on an airline’s mobile app, in their reservation details after booking. For Alaska, this is available in the “Details” section of the app. Flight tracking websites, such as FlightAware, also contain aircraft information if users search for specific flights using flight number.

But this is not a guarantee. Even if passengers know in advance which plane they are to fly on, this is always subject to change. Airlines swap planes at the last minute, depending on factors like weather and logistics.

United and Alaska have both issued flight waivers due to Max 9 inspections that allow passengers to cancel or change their flights without incurring fees. The Alaska Waiver applies to flights until February 2. “After that, customers can call our reservations team and we will put them on another flight at no additional cost, which includes our Saver fares,” an Alaska spokesperson said.

United’s waiver applies to flights through January 28.

Airlines have different policies covering cancellations and refunds, which depend on factors such as the date of your reservation, your desired cancellation deadline, and the type of fare you purchased. Once the Max 9 waivers expire, passengers will no longer have the same rights to penalty-free rebookings or refunds for flights they choose to cancel themselves.

For future bookings, Kayak has created a new filter that excludes Max 9 flights. This often means booking on a carrier that does not use packages. But on some routes with a limited number of carriers, this may not be an option. For example, Alaska is the only carrier to fly nonstop between Anchorage and Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. The airline has often used a Max 9 on this route, according to FlightAwareto the flight tracking website.

But experts suggest it may not make sense to avoid these plans, which have been subject to rigorous inspection.

“It is not clear or rational why anyone would avoid the most recently inspected aircraft in the sky,” said aviation analyst Robert W. Mann Jr., noting that the Max 8 has returned to flight several years after two fatal accidents that killed 346 people.

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David B.Otero

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