Alaska Airlines plans to hold Boeing accountable for every penny the carrier lost following what nearly was the first fatal U.S. commercial aviation accident in 15 years.
The company grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft earlier this month to ensure none of the other 64 planes would lose parts of their fuselage in mid-air after a door plug on Alaska’s Flight 1282 blew off at 16,000 feet.
In a conference call with analysts, finance chief Shane Tackett estimated shareholders would suffer a minimum $150 million hit to profits this quarter incurred from rebooking passengers and paying overtime to staff.
“We fully expect to be made whole for the profit impact of the grounding,” Tackett vowed to investors in comments reported by the Seattle Times.
During its safety inspections, Alaska Air discovered loose bolts on other 737 Max 9 aircraft. Nevertheless, the carrier expects all 65 planes will be back in full service by the end of next week.
The scandal is particularly painful for Alaska given it operates an exclusively Boeing fleet. Most other competitors also have other narrow-body planes like the Airbus A320 in their fleet.
Boeing did not respond to a Fortune request for comment, but chief executive Dave Calhoun has accepted responsibility for Flight 1282’s near disaster. The CEO himself owes his job to a previous scandal that felled his predecessor after faulty 737 Max flight software cost the lives of hundreds of people in October 2018 and March 2019.
Making matters worse for Calhoun, earlier this week the wheel of a Boeing 757 came off a Delta flight departing Atlanta. No one was fortunately injured.
‘We had a guardian angel,’ admits Alaska Air CEO
Now the boss of United Airlines, which operates the largest fleet of 737 Max 9s, appears to have had enough with the scandals at Boeing. His team would look to its rivals to supply the carrier with a replacement for the Max 10 planes he has had on order.
“The Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us,” United CEO Scott Kirby said this week. “We’re going to build a plan that doesn’t have the Max 10 in it.”
On Thursday, CEO Ben Minicucci told the Today show he was in no doubt that the aircraft that departed Portland that fateful January day came off Boeing’s assembly line defective. Were it not for the quick thinking of the crew and the fact that no one was sitting next to faulty door plug, his customers might have lost their lives.
“There were only seven open seats,” Minicucci told the broadcaster. “We had a guardian angel, honestly, on that airplane.”
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