Should Airline Passengers Be Concerned About Boeing 737 Max 9 Groundings?

The FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive after part of a Boeing 737 Max 9 jet's wall blew out mid-air on an Alaska Airlines flight on Friday, rapidly depressurizing the cabin and requiring an emergency landing.

A 737 Max 9 carrying Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California, experienced the “in-flight departure of a mid-cabin door plug” on Friday.

After rapid cabin decompression, 171 passengers and six crew returned to Portland airport safely. On Saturday, the FAA grounded 171 of these aircraft for days-long inspections.

Since dozens of flights have been affected, airlines using this model are warning passengers about potential flight disruptions. FAA-grounded 737 Max 9s are rare.

Alaska, United, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Copa, and Icelandair fly Max 9s to the U.S., per The Washington Post. The smaller 737 Max 8 used by American and Southwest Airlines had issues a few years ago. 

The largest fleet is 79 United Airlines aircraft. Nearly 20% of Alaska Airlines' fleet is 65 Max 9s. United “temporarily suspended service on select Boeing 737 MAX 9” planes for inspections on Saturday. 

Alaska said 18 of these planes were cleared to return to service on Saturday, but the FAA order grounded them again. United said 33 of the aircraft passed inspection on Saturday.

For flight cancellation-afraid travelers, Google Flights and reservation confirmations list aircraft specs. If your flight wasn't on a 737 Max 9, carriers may reassign planes to affected routes.

Note that aircraft designations vary. The Boeing 737 Max 9 may be referred to as 737 Max-9 or 737-9. Max 9 is different from 737-900, an earlier generation 737 not grounded.

Airlines are warning customers that flights may be delayed or canceled in the coming days. About 160 Alaska Airlines flights were canceled Saturday, affecting 23,000 passengers.

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