Lufthansa CEO reveals the biggest change in the airline industry caused by the Boeing 737 Max scandal

BoeingThe Boeing 737 Max 8.
  • Germany’s Lufthansa Group was the first customer to place an order with Boeing after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302.
  • Lufthansa doesn’t have any Boeing 737 Max aircraft in its fleet but will consider buying the jet in a round of orders next year, CEO Carsten Spohr said.
  • Spohr isn’t concerned about Boeing’s ability to build safe airliners. However, the airline CEO does foresee international regulators placing greater scrutiny on the certification of US-made planes by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • The Lufthansa CEO also said that the complexity of modern tech makes it very difficult for regulators in any country to have expert-level knowledge of every single system that comprises a modern jetliner.
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On March 13, three days after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order to ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the US.

The FAA emergency order followed more than 50 nations and airlines that had also taken action, effectively grounding the entire global 737 Max fleet after two crashes in four months.

At the same time, politicians and the flying public began to question how Boeing and the FAA could have let such a troubled aircraft enter service.

Also on March 13, Germany’s Lufthansa Group placed an order for 20 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in a deal that could worth as much as $US5.85 billion.

Carsten Spohr LufthansaAlexander Hassenstein/Getty ImagesLufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr.

It was the first major-airline order placed with Boeing after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302. It was a show of support for the Chicago-based aviation giant from a longtime customer.

“It shows we are committed to our partners in difficult times,” Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters at a recent lunch meeting in New York. “We have not lost our trust in Boeing, they have built wonderful aircraft over the decades, and I’m sure they will fix the current issues.”

Lufthansa Group includes such airlines as Austrian, Swiss, Brussels Air, Germanwings, Eurowings, and the eponymous Lufthansa.

Read more: A timeline of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 shows its pilots fighting desperately to save their doomed Boeing 737 Max jet.

None of Lufthansa Group’s brands operate the controversial 737 Max airliner, opting instead for the rival Airbus A320neo. However, Spohr revealed his airline will consider the 737 Max in a round of aircraft orders next year.

Europe’s largest airline also operates a wide variety of wide-body Boeing jets, including the 747, the 767, and the 777.

In 1967, Lufthansa was the first airline to take delivery of the original 737-100.

Boeing 737 100 LufthansaLufthansaA Lufthansa Boeing 737-100.

While Boeing’s reputation may remain intact, the Lufthansa CEO does foresee a major shift in the way regulatory bodies around the world will certify US-made aircraft in the years to come.

“When it comes to the certification, it’s going to be interesting to see how the European authorities react to what has happened to the Max,” Spohr said. “Historically, if the FAA certified the aircraft, it was basically ‘copy and paste’ for the European authorities.”

Read more:The 20 biggest airlines in the world, ranked.

“Overall, foreign authorities will be more thorough in accepting American certifications,” Spohr added. “I think that for me is one of the outputs of these terrible events in Indonesia and Ethiopia.”

However, the Lufthansa boss did point out that regulators may be limited in their ability to be effective.

“We also have to be realistic, the aircraft these days are such high-tech machines that probably regulators cannot do what they did in the 1960s,” Spohr told Business Insider.

He said that the complexity of modern technology makes it very challenging for regulators to have an expert-level understanding of the innumerable systems that comprise a modern jetliner.

Lufthansa Boeing 747 8LufthansaA Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I.

This is a problem all regulators will have to confront.

Despite of the increased scrutiny international regulators will place on US-made aircraft, Spohr said that the FAA’s place as the elite aviation-regulatory body will remain unchanged.

“The FAA is the most advanced agency in the world so I think we’ll be watching what comes out from the investigations here and that probably will be the new standard around the world,” the Lufthansa CEO told Business Insider.

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