First Boeing 737 Max 9 with passengers flies after three-week grounding, Alaska Airlines COO sits next to door plug

Jan 27, 2024, 5:30 AM

Alaska Airlines COO Constance von Muehlen onboard the first Boeing 737 Max 9 to fly with passengers...

Alaska Airlines COO Constance von Muehlen onboard the first Boeing 737 Max 9 to fly with passengers after three-week grounding on January 26. (CNN)


Originally Published: 26 JAN 24 19:57 ET

(CNN) — Boeing’s 737 Max 9 model returned to service Friday afternoon when Alaska Airlines flight 1146 departed Seattle at approximately 3:51pm local time (6:51pm ET) bound for San Diego.

It is the first revenue flight for this model since the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Boeing jets three weeks ago following a door plug blowout on Alaska Airlines flight 1282.

Alaska Airlines COO Constance von Muehlen took the flight and sat in the seat next to the door plug, telling CNN she has full confidence in the aircraft.

Sarah Edgbert was not aware that the flight she was taking was on a 737 Max 9 plane until she got to her gate and saw news crews.

She said she felt anxious at first. “But then realizing it’s probably the safest plane out there right now, it’s been through lots of tests since then,” Edgbert said.

“I am not going to stop doing what I do,” Kent, who did not want to give his last name, said. “I am not going to change my habits for it, and I am going to be hoping that something bad doesn’t happen.”

Doug Bowman didn’t know that he’d be boarding a Max 9 plane until he was informed by CNN, but said he had “important things, engagements to get back to” in San Diego.

The flight left with a delay because the plane itself — tail number N929AK — was late arriving in Seattle. It is expected to land in San Diego around 9pm ET.

Alaska and United Airlines — the two US carriers operating this version of Boeing’s latest 737 generation — have been canceling hundreds of flights daily since the Max 9 was grounded. The airlines provided data that helped the FAA and Boeing refine inspection procedures to ensure the planes are safe to fly. The carriers started performing the actual inspections soon after the FAA issued instructions late Wednesday.

The first flight is one of three flights Alaska Airlines has scheduled on Max 9 jets for Friday. United Airlines said its first Max 9 flight is scheduled for Sunday — but that cleared Max 9s are available in the meantime as spares if another plane is unavailable.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said Thursday he is not concerned with passengers avoiding the Max 9.

“Our anticipation is when our Max 9 gets back up that we will fill our airplanes,” he said.

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Related: Boeing 737 Max 9’s: What travelers need to know

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First Boeing 737 Max 9 with passengers flies after three-week grounding, Alaska Airlines COO sits next to door plug