Boeing’s reputation takes a hit after 737 Max 9 fallout, survey shows

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Boeing’s reputation has taken a significant hit this month, according to surveys conducted by Morning Consult.

A report by the market research company shows net trust dropped 12 percentage points among U.S. adults from December 2023 to January 2024.

Net trust represents the share of people who say they trust a brand minus those who say they don’t.

Net trust also fell among frequent flyers and, to a lesser extent, business travelers, according to the report, which polled nearly 170,000 people, according to Joanna Piacenza, Morning Consult’s head of industry intelligence.

Do you trust Boeing? A new survey shows how far trust in the company has fallen

The drop in trust comes on the heels of a door plug that blew off a Boeing 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines on Jan. 5.

“Notably, we aren’t seeing the same negative impact for Alaska Airlines, or for United Airlines, which announced that its crew had found loose bolts on its own 737 Max 9s during inspections,” according to Morning Consult’s report.

Boeing has not yet replied to CNBC’s request for comment.

In a statement issued on Jan. 23, the company’s Commercial Airplanes CEO Stanley Deal said, “We have let down our airline customers and are deeply sorry for the significant disruption to them, their employees and their passengers. We are taking action on a comprehensive plan to bring these airplanes safely back to service and to improve our quality and delivery performance.”

Weathering tough times

Boeing’s reputation has seen worse times, with net trust among U.S. adults falling below 6% after two Max 8s crashed within five months — Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019.

Since 2020, net trust in Boeing has slowly, but steadily, increased with confidence levels among by high-dollar investors leading the way, according to Morning Consult.

Americans typically show greater net trust in its homegrown Boeing brand than in the European-based Airbus, its largest competitor.

But for the second time in five years, U.S. respondents this month showed more confidence in Airbus, according to the report.

Fallout not over

The fallout likely isn’t over yet, said Piacenza.

“Expect Boeing’s net trust metrics to tick down a bit more, especially as the brand’s name remains in the headlines, but not to the extent that we saw in March 2019,” she said. “Boeing’s big trust drop in March 2019 occurred after two deadly crashes … while the Alaska Airlines 1282 incident was horrifying, it didn’t result in any casualties.”

After grounding around 170 Max 9s from flying, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that planes that pass inspections can return to the skies. Since then, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Copa Airlines have started flying the aircraft again.

According to the website Simple Flying, 11 airlines currently operate Boeing 737 Max 9s: Aeromexico, Air Tanzania, Alaska Airlines, Copa Airlines, Corendon Dutch Airlines, Flydubai, Icelandair, Lion Air, SCAT Airlines, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines.

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