Ex-American Airlines chief says Boeing faces ‘tough chore’ to regain reputation

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Former longtime American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall predicted Friday that U.S.-based plane manufacturer Boeing has a long road to regain its positive reputation, but predicted that despite current headwinds, the company will be back on top in the future.

Crandall’s comments to FOX Business come after a door plug blew off midflight on a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet being operated by Seattle-based Alaska Airlines on January 5.

Previously, in 2019, the FAA grounded Boeing 737 Max jets after two deadly incidents – a Lion Air flight from Jakarta, Indonesia that crashed into the Java Sea, and an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa which went down a few minutes after takeoff.

“I think I would say to [Boeing CEO David Calhoun] ‘we all need Boeing, the industry needs Boeing, the country needs Boeing’,” Crandall told “The Claman Countdown.”

ALASKA AIRLINES TO RESUME FIRST BOEING 737 MAX 9 FLIGHT

“All of us are hoping that the remedial efforts that [Calhoun has] undertaken in the last couple of days are going to bear fruit,” he said, adding American Airlines purchased hundreds of Boeing jets during his more-than-a-decade tenure which began in the mid-1980s.

“In fact, that Boeing – the stamp of quality was everywhere on Boeing. And we all need it to be back.”

Calhoun recently participated in a meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill after Senate Commerce Committee members Peter Welch, D-Vt., J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Edward Markey, D-Mass., wrote him a letter expressing concerns about systemic issues in Boeing’s manufacturing capabilities.

Calhoun was, however, curt when pressed by Fox Business correspondent Hillary Vaughn in a Capitol Hill hallway about how he plans to win customers back who have sworn off flying on Boeing jets:

“We believe in our airplanes. We field safe airplanes, our people do – we have confidence in the safety of our airplanes? And that’s what all of this is about. And we fully understand the gravity,” he said, going on to ignore a follow-up from Vaughn in which she noted, “but one of your planes fell apart in the sky.”

As Crandall noted, Boeing has a very large manufacturing footprint in the United States, with plants in Renton, Wash., Everett, Wash., and Charleston, S.C.

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He told FOX Business that the only people who know what needs to be fixed in the manufacturing and quality control process are the people who make the airplanes at Boeing.

Crandall added that despite the recent incidents, the United States has a stellar aviation safety record compared to some other nations.

“And that safety record is there because the individuals that make up the aviation industry have made personal commitments to make sure that nothing goes wrong,” he said.

“I think Boeing and all of the people at Boeing feel a lot of individual responsibility for what they do. So in effect, what they’ve got to do is reignite that culture in the individuals who are doing the manufacturing jobs. Because we do need Boeing back.”

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Host Liz Claman went on to note there is essentially an airliner “duopoly” between Boeing and Dutch-French manufacturer Airbus, asking Crandall whether an industry shift toward Airbus may be in the offing.

“I think some [business] probably will,” he replied. “On the other hand, there isn’t a lot of excess manufacturing capacity, and the airlines have a very powerful need for new airplanes. So my guess is that there won’t be a lot in the very short term.”

“And in the longer term, the industry as a whole and individual companies will be hoping that Boeing can once again put the stamp of quality on all of its products.”

Claman reported the first flight of a Boeing 737 Max 9 since the incident – an Alaska flight from Seattle to San Diego was running one hour late for departure at press time.

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