10 Reasons People Are Now Scared to Fly on Boeing Planes

10 Reasons People Are Now Scared to Fly on Boeing Planes

The world got an uncomfortable reminder about the need to scrutinize air travel last January when a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines flight 16,000 feet over Portland, OR. The culprit was a Boeing 737, and in the days that followed, it was soon clear that catastrophic failure wasn’t a freak accident but the result of systemic problems. Worse, that ill-fated flight was just the beginning of a disturbing news cycle for the airline manufacturer.

Boeing is no stranger to safety issues, but the first few months of 2024 saw an almost weekly deluge of bad news about the aerospace giant. It’s enough that a growing number of would-be travelers are jumping on social media to say they won’t be flying in a Boeing plane.

“Based on the FAA audit, our quality stand downs and the recent expert panel report, we continue to implement immediate changes and develop a comprehensive action plan to strengthen safety and quality, and build the confidence of our customers and their passengers,” said Boeing spokesperson Connor Greenwood. “We are squarely focused on taking significant, demonstrated action with transparency at every turn.” Greenwood shared a link to a website with details from Boeing about the door plug incident.

It’s a story with alleged safety cutbacks, hospitalized passengers, regulatory failure, and even a dead whistleblower. Click through the slideshow above for 10 unsettling examples that have people scared to fly Boeing.

We all learn what a door plug is


Alaska Air’s Boeing 737 Max 9 Loses Fuselage Section

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded Boeing 737 Max 9s after a harrowing incident in early January that saw a door plug, a cover that was supposed to seal an unused emergency exit, blow offan Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt thanks to the fact that the seat next to the door plug was unoccupied. Still, passengers posted a disturbing video of the disaster. There were also minor injuries, and a number of objects got sucked out of the aircraft. That included an iPhone, which miraculously survived a 16,000-foot drop.

A dead whistleblower

Photo: Samuel Corum / Stringer (Getty Images)

The controversy brought new attention to a whistleblower lawsuit against Boeing. According to the BBC, former Boeing quality control engineer John Barnett testified that the company forced him into retirement after he raised alarms over safety concerns. A week later, Barnett was reportedly found dead in a parked car.

The local coroner in Charleston, SC, found the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and so far, there’s no public evidence of foul play. Still, Barnett’s death was the last straw for some social media users, who took to X and other platforms to swear off Boeing after the news.

Don’t want to fly Boeing? Kayak can help

Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor (Getty Images)

Kayak has a lot of neat features that make traveling easy, including one that allows you to filter out Boeing 737 Max 9s. That feature saw a 15-fold increase in usage after Alaska Airlines gave a whole plane an unexpected window seat in January.

“Following the spike in usage, Kayak moved its filter up so it’s more prominent for travelers when searching for a flight,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo. “The company also added the ability to filter specifically by the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft models especially as Max 8 aircrafts are still in flight.”

“A quality escape event occurred.”

Photo: NurPhoto / Contributor (Getty Images)

After the incident, preliminary investigations found the door plug came loose because there were no bolts installed securing the plug to the fuselage. When asked how Boeing’s recent door plug incident came about, company CEO Dave Calhoun cryptically explained “a quality escape occurred.” Others less comfortable speaking in the passive voice blamed ruthless cost cutting, stock buybacks, and incompetence.

United Flight 35 loses a wheel

Photo: Houston Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images / Contributor (Getty Images)

Boeing’s safety nightmare continued in March when a 265-pound wheel fell off a United Airlines Boeing 777 after taking off from San Francisco International Airport, smashing through a fence and into several cars in a nearby parking lot. The flight bound for Osaka, Japan diverted to Los Angeles and landed safely instead of taking a 12-hour trip across the Pacific Ocean. However, it’s worth noting that records show the plane in question was delivered decades ago, which suggests it may not be evidence of any recent safety failings on Boeing’s part.

50 passengers hit their heads

Photo: BRETT PHIBBS / Contributor (Getty Images)

At least 50 people were hurt in yet another Boeing incident just this Monday when a Boeing 787 operated by LATAM Airlines experienced “strong movement.” One passenger told the BBC that the flight “just dropped,” causing a number of people to slam their heads against the ceiling of the plane. 10 passengers and three cabin crew members were reportedly taken to a hospital after the flight made an emergency landing.

“We are thinking of the passengers and crew from flight LA800, and we commend everyone involved in the response effort,” Boeing spokesperson Connor Greenwood said. “We are in contact with our customer, and Boeing stands ready to support investigation-related activities as requested.”

Engine fires

Gif: Melanie Adaros/ Pete Muntean/ Twitter

Boeing made more news with a number of engine fires, including one in January that saw a Boeing 747 shooting sparks through the air, and another in March where flames shot out of an engine mid-flight on a Boeing 737-900. It’s not clear that Boeing was to blame in either case, but these events’ proximity to the company’s other recent issues didn’t assuage fears.

More loose door plugs

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 after the door plug incident

Door Plug-Gate only got worse as investigations moved forward. Alaska and United Airlines inspections found at least five more 737 Max 9s with loose door plugs.

No “objective evidence” of Boeing’s commitment to safety

Photo: Stephen Brashear / Stringer (Getty Images)

A new Federal Aviation Administration report casts a dour light on both Boeing and the FAA itself. The FAA called Boeing’s safety procedures “inadequate,” and said a panel of industry experts found no “objective evidence of a foundational commitment to safety that matched Boeing’s descriptions of that objective.” The details were damning.

A criminal investigation

Photo: J. David Ake / Contributor (Getty Images)

The Department of Justice reportedly opened an investigation into Boeing’s door plug incident in March, ensuring the debacle will be a continuing PR thorn in the company’s already troubled side. According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ is looking into whether Boeing violated a settlement regarding plane crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. Meanwhile, NPR reports that Boeing says it simply can’t find documents related to the door plug that blew off in January.

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