By Emma Newburger, CNBC
President Donald Trump said Monday that Boeing should “fix” and “rebrand” its popular 737 Max after the jet’s anti-stall software was implicated in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people since October.
“What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name. No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet stands in contrast with his earlier statement that the main problem with air travel was that flying had simply become “far too complex.”
“Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” he tweeted in March, after the deadly crash in Ethiopia. “I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better.”
But some aviation experts say that re-branding is not a serious solution for Boeing. Re-branding would require a new certification process with the Federal Aviation Administration that would likely take the plane out of service for too long and create other complications.
“Airplanes are not laundry detergent, chewing gym or aspirin. You don’t and you can’t just rebrand them,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group. “Aircraft types are associated with FAA certification and pilot training. The passengers and crew would see right through this. It’s not like you can change the plane’s appearance. People would know it’s a 737.”
He said there’s a stigma associated with the Max now, “but if Boeing does what it needs to do to fix the problem, if the airline is certified by safety regulators and goes on to fly reliably, then the stigma that exists now will fade away.”
Boeing has slowed production of the Max jet and plans to submit a software fix to Federal Aviation Administration regulators within the next couple of weeks.
Company spokesman Chaz Bickers told CNBC on Monday that Boeing’s “focused on testing and implementing the software update, finalizing pilot training and materials, and rebuilding trust with our airline customers and the traveling public.”
“We know we have a deep responsibility to everyone who flies on our airplanes to ensure that the MAX is one of the safest aircraft ever to fly,” he said.
Several major airlines have extended Max cancellations through the summer. American has canceled Max flights through Aug. 19, totaling 115 flights per day, while Southwest has canceled through Aug. 5 and United through June 5.