THOUSANDS of passengers are being sold seats on Boeing 737 Max aircraft despite there being no date for when they will return to service.
Airlines such as American, United, Southwest, Icelandair, Norwegian and Tui are among the airlines using the troubled models.
According to the Times, more than 32,600 flights have been scheduled across the five airlines later this year.
TUI, the only airline to use the aircraft from the UK, reportedly has hundreds of flights scheduled on the 737 Max in November and December.
British tourist Chuni Kahan, 57, was informed that his American Airlines flight to the Caribbean would be on a Boeing 737 Max 8 – but was denied a refund.
He booked the flight from Puerto Rico to Miami in December and was told last week that the aircraft model had changed to a Boeing 737 Max 8.
Chuni, who said he didn’t want to be treated like a “guinea pig” on the flight, said he would be buying new flights with his wife despite not being given a refund.
But if you’re booked on a Boeing 737 Max route, you could also face a number of other issues if the model continues to be grounded.
You could be switched to an alternative plane for example, which may be an older model.
If that’s the case, you could also lose your booked premium seats or seats that you’ve paid to select.
Or if the airline is unable to find an alternative aircraft, you could also see the flight cancelled, adding to the travel misery.
Passengers should be informed at the time of their booking if they are flying on the Boeing 737 Max.
You can also check using the free website Seat Guru, which shows the plane being used for a particular flight number.
Boeing forced to store grounded 737 Max planes in its employee car park
The Boeing 737 Max was grounded earlier this year after two deadly plane crashes.
This led to the CAA and the FAA banning the Boeing model from flying due to safety fears.
It was later confirmed that a new Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system on board forced the plane’s nose down in some circumstances in order to stabilise the aircraft.
A TUI spokesperson said: “All our 737 MAX aircraft are grounded and we are waiting for the certification process and approval by the authorities.
“Once we have the certification and approval we will be able to plan our flying programme. Until then we will make planning assumptions, which will constantly change.”
An American Airlines spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: “We have cancelled our MAX flying through Nov. 2; we have 24 MAX 8 aircraft. This timing is also subject to change, as we wait for additional information from the FAA and Boeing.
“We have not made any announcement regarding specific rebooking policies once the MAX comes back into service.
“However, we will always work to ensure we have policies and procedures in place that take care of our customers and team members.
“Mr. Kahan, along with all of our customs, can be assured that an American Airlines pilot would never operate an unsafe aircraft. However, once these policies are rolled out, they will assist our customers if they are still concerned flying on the MAX.”
“Once the aircraft is cleared to fly again, American will continue to look at ways to reiterate to our customers that our pilots are the best in the business and would never fly an unsafe aircraft.”
What are your rights if flying on a Boeing 737 Max?
Passengers who find themselves with tickets for the Boeing 737 Max are unlikely to be offered a refund.
Travel insurers are also unlikely to pay out.
However it is worth checking the terms and conditions, as the CAA explain it will depend per airline on whether they charge a cancellation fee.
Travel expert Frank Brehany told Sun Online Travel: “Unfortunately, such changes will be allowable under the companies terms and conditions and indeed within the terms and conditions of their supporting airlines.
“This they argue, gives them flexibility in operations.
“For consumers, there is little that they can do to confront this problem as the travel company would argue that they are completing their side of the bargain by delivering you to your chosen destination.”
For example, American Airlines states refunds can be given after buying a ticket if a change by the airline “results in a substitution of equipment not acceptable to the passenger”.
However, TUI “reserve the right […] to change the aircraft type for your flight”.
United Airlines state: “UA may substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, delay or cancel flights, and alter or omit stopping places or connections shown on the ticket at any time.”
Frank added: “If consumers get stuck, they should always make that written complaint, but seek help from their credit card issuer (Section 75 Consumer Credit Act), or, if they used a debit card, seek assistance from their bank under the ‘chargeback’ scheme.”
A Southwest spokesperson explained: “Southwest Airlines previously announced a revised flight schedule that removed MAX flights from our schedule through January 5, 2020 to offer reliability to our operation and stability for our Customers.
“The limited number of Customers who have already booked their travel and will be affected by our amended schedule are being notified of their re-accommodated travel according to our flexible accommodation procedures. We offer our apologies to our Customers impacted by this change, and we thank them for their continued patience.
“Southwest Airlines continues to monitor information from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the impending 737 MAX software enhancements and training requirements. We remain confident that, once certified by the FAA, the enhancements will support the safe operation of the MAX.”
United added: “Since the grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft in March, United has gone to great lengths to minimise the impact on our customers’ travel plans. We’ve used spare aircraft and other creative solutions to help our customers, who had been scheduled to travel on one of our MAX aircraft, get where they are going.
“We have decided to pull MAX flights out of our schedule until November 3. During this period, we’ll continue to take extraordinary steps to protect our customers’ travel plans. Moving forward, we’ll continue to monitor the regulatory process and nimbly make the necessary adjustments to our operation and our schedule to benefit our customers who are travelling with us.”
“We are continuing to work through the schedule to try and swap and up-gauge aircraft to mitigate the disruption caused by the grounding of the MAX. We continue to automatically book affected customers on alternate flights. If we are unable to place them on a different flight, we will proactively reach out to try and offer other options.”
Boeing have been forced to store their 737 Max planes in the employee car parks as they will remain grounded until at least October.
Ryanair were also due to receive a number of Boeing 737 Max planes until they were grounded.
New images this year revealed a re-branded Max jet with Ryanair, changed from ‘737 Max’ to ‘737-8200’.
Sun Online Travel has contacted the airlines for comment.
SOURCE The Sun