Budget carrier Ryanair has seemingly given the clearest indication of how Boeing intends to find its way out of the marketing and sales catastrophe that is the 737 MAX. A photo has emerged of a Boeing 737 MAX painted in Ryanair livery marked “737-8200.” The removal of the “MAX” insignia has raised speculation that this is how Boeing intends to restore confidence in its best-selling plane again.
— Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris) July 15, 2019
It also calls to mind the advice dispensed on Twitter in April by the U.S. president. After the decision to ground all Boeing 737 MAX planes, Donald Trump‘s recommendation was for Boeing to rebrand its way out of PR and revenue hellfire. With the release of these photos, it seems as if someone was taking notes.
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?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2019
Has the MAX Brand Been Damaged Beyond All Repair?
Market value and orders are not all Boeing has lost since the crashes. A survey by NPR reveals that 60 percent of air travelers said that even if the flying ban is lifted, they would not be traveling on a MAX plane. Rebranding the plane and hoping not many travelers take note might just be the only play left if the world’s biggest plane manufacturer hopes to hold onto that title and the trust of both the public and customers.
There is speculation that many airlines will now follow in Ryanair’s footsteps in an attempt to keep their customers onside. Last month, while announcing its plan to buy MAX planes from Boeing, International Consolidated Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, also shied away from using the “MAX” suffix, announcing instead that they would be purchasing a mix of 737-8 and 737-10 jets with delivery to commence in 2023.
Last month in an interview, Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman reportedly said the company’s priority was making the MAX safe again and gaining the trust of the public. Bergman added that the company had “no plans” to rebrand the plane at the time. The new Ryanair photos appear to belie this claim though, as the plane clearly does not have the customary “MAX” painted on its nose.
Boeing Attempts to Draw a Line Under Nightmare
The 737 MAX, which is Boeing’s biggest commercial plane, has been grounded since March following the loss of 346 lives in two different crashes. Investigations into both crashes implicated a new anti-stall program which overrode the pilot’s commands as the cause of the fatal crashes. Since then, Boeing has lost around $50 billion in market value as well as customers like American Airlines and United Airlines, which have been forced to cancel all 737 MAX flights until November and October, respectively.
Production and delivery rates for the company’s 4600 standing orders are quite slow. The company has had to cut down delivery numbers from the initially projected 57 planes per month to only 42. There’s more. Only last week, Boeing declared its third straight month without receiving a commercial plane order and has received a mere total of 19 orders since the year began. It also lost out on a number of deals, including $5.9 billion from Saudi’s Flyadeal.
Just last week, CCN reported that Boeing has not sold a single 737 MAX for three straight months. The situation is particularly serious for Boeing because the company effectively staked its future on the 737 MAX providing effective competition to its main rival, the Airbus A380. Airbus, for its part, has taken full advantage of the situation, reportedly delivering 389 planes in the first half of 2019 and scheduling deliveries for a total of 890 by year-end.