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Boeing: Legal Consequences

Boeing, repercusiones legales

Following the explosion of a cabin panel on January 6, a Boeing 737 MAX 9 operated by Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing. The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has just released its preliminary report on the incident, which suggests that four bolts, meant to prevent the movement of that piece, were missing.

Approximately 200 airplanes have been grounded while investigations continue. Most of these are operated by American airlines such as United Airlines and Alaska Airlines. The airline reports that it has completed the final inspections of its first group of Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes and resumed flights with this model last Friday, January 26. In the European Union and the European Economic Area, only the Icelandic company Icelandair has four airplanes.

Some OTAs, like Kayak, have added filters allowing users to exclude flights using Boeing 737 Max airplanes, leading to a 15-fold increase in user interest in avoiding these planes (compared to the original filter usage). This filter specifically distinguishes between the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 models, since only the latter has been grounded by the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

Four passengers of Alaska Airlines who were on board the Boeing 737 MAX 9 have filed a first civil lawsuit in the King County Superior Court in Seattle, against both the manufacturer and the airline. The plane returned to Portland, where some passengers received treatment for injuries.

The plaintiffs primarily claim psychological damages from the trauma caused by “the enormous hole in the fuselage, rapid depressurization, and the overall chaos as a prelude to the plane’s destruction.” They also seek compensation for physical injuries and economic losses, including medical and travel expenses. The lawsuit alleges that Boeing and Alaska Airlines operated a “defective and unsafe” airplane and failed to conduct proper testing, inspections, and maintenance on the plane to ensure passenger safety.

Air safety in the European Union (EU) is regulated by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It is responsible for setting standards and regulations to ensure high levels of safety in civil aviation across all EU Member States. The agency oversees aspects such as aircraft certification, maintenance, pilot licensing, and overall operational safety. In response to the incident, EASA adopted an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD).

The EAD requires airlines to ground Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft until an inspection has been completed. EASA made this decision despite no EU airline currently operating this type of aircraft.

The FAA has only grounded Boeing 737 Max 9s with a door in the middle of the cabin. Not all Boeing 737 Max 9s have one. In fact, the 737-9 aircraft operating in Europe do not have this configuration and are therefore not affected by the EAD and could continue operating as normal.

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