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Americans who know of Boeing's 737 Max don't want to fly on plane

Delta CEO on Boeing 737 Max, holiday travel

The nation's top aviation regulator recently told Congress that Boeing's 737 Max would not fly again until he personally pilots the craft grounded for nine months after two deadly crashes. But as things stand, Federal Aviation Administration administrator Stephen Dickson might have difficulty finding others to board the plane with him. 

Boeing's top-selling model is on shaky ground with consumers, according to a survey this month of 2,135 Americans by BofA Securities. Only 20% of those who knew of the Max view it as safe and said they'd be willing to ride on a Max now. Of the 80% indicating they'd hold off, 60% signaled they'd have to wait at least six months to fly on the plane after its clearance by regulators.

The findings echo the sentiments of the union representing 28,000 flight attendants for American Airlines, which in November said its members would "refuse to walk on a plane that may not be safe."

The measures of how would-be fliers and workers feel about the Max comes as Congress looks into the FAA's decisions regarding the aircraft involved in two crashes within five months, killing 346 people. Boeing is currently waiting for the FAA to certify software changes designed to avert future such tragedies, with the agency not expected to clear the craft until next year

A majority, or 74%, of BofA survey respondents said they'd switch to another plane if they were scheduled on a Max, assuming a limited delay, with the findings potentially troublesome for Boeing if they signal a significant shift in consumer behavior, BofA analysts noted.

"The 737 Max has a long way to go to regain consumer confidence," the analysts wrote. "Return to service of the aircraft could result in disruptions for airlines if consumers do not want to fly the 737 Max."

Offsetting the potential damage to Boeing's reputation is the fact that about 50% of Americans are not aware of what a Max is or that the plane has been grounded on safety concerns, according to BofA's findings.

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