CHICAGO (CBS) — All Boeing 737 Maxes have been grounded in the United States after days of carriers’ insistence that they’re just fine.
Southwest, the nation’s largest domestic air carrier, has planes take off some 225 times every day at Midway Airport. It’s the airline’s biggest hub in the nation.
Now 34 planes in its fleet of 750 will stay on the ground until further notice.
“Planes that are in the air will be grounded, if they’re the 737 Max, will be grounded upon landing at the destination,” President Donald Trump said in an urgent announcement.
All of the Boeing 737 Maxes will not be going anywhere until more is learned about what caused an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max to crash over the weekend.
That crash came just months after another crash involving the relatively new Boeing 737 Max.
“We thought there might be a more gradual approach,” said DePaul University transportation expert Joe Schwieterman.
The Union of Profession Flight Attendants applauded the decision.
“The way I see it is if there is any chance that there might be a safety issue with that plane, our flight attendants should not have to get on that plane and neither should our passengers,” said union president Lori Bassani.
Now Southwest, United and American Airlines have to quickly fill the void with dozens of their planes ordered out of the skies.
“Grounding all the airplanes all at once is going to cause some pain, maybe necessary, but there’s simply not enough spares out there to keep running the full airline of Southwest and American. Some passengers are going to be left stranded,” Schwieterman said.
“Right now it’s a rather small portion of the global aviation population. We are looking at less than 400 aircraft in service so far, but it is Boeing’s most selling aircraft of all time,” said Ian Petchenik, with Flight Radar 24, a global flight tracking service.
Southwest passengers were just hearing the news at Midway late Wednesday afternoon.
“I suppose it’s good just out of precaution to do so,” said one passenger. “I’m just glad it wasn’t our plane.”
Another passenger said he was not concerned.
“It’s like being eaten by a shark,” he said. “It’s such a slim chance of it happening, it is what it is.”
Boeing is based in Chicago, but manufactures its planes in Washington state. It released a statement saying it has full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max but determined to suspend the fleet out of an abundance of caution.