This week, famed aerospace company Boeing came under fire for a lack of safety measures around its 737-800 aircraft in Latin America – including those on routes to and from the Dominican Republic.
Boeing’s Latin American Vice President, Landon Loomis, stated that ‘security is essential to the company, and that actions must be taken quickly to ensure the safety of all passengers flying on Boeing aircraft:
“We must rebuild the confidence of the public, of the airline, of the governments and of the regulatory entities…Every plane we deliver is an opportunity to rebuild trust.”
Loomis went on to explain that Boeing will aim to carry out repairs “in a way that ensures quality and safety”, by making sure that due time is taken to make the necessary changes, instead of causing further accidents by rushing the renovation.
Boeing has historically had an issue with its 737-800 model: launched in the 1990s as the third generation of the Boeing 737, the plane boasts a larger wingspan than its earlier editions, as well as a greater fuel capacity and a glass cockpit. The 737-800 is the most common version of the Boeing 737NG variant, first introduced in 1993.
Despite its innovative design, issues with the 737-800 model have occurred frequently. Most famously, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, American Airlines Flight 331 and AIRES Flight 8250 all faced mechanical issues with their 737-800s, resulting in major crashes and several fatalities.
The mechanical issues occurred due to defective structural elements of the aircraft, which failed to support the frame of the plane. In 2019, further inspections reveal that fatigue cracks were found on a wing attachment, initially designed to last for 90,000 flights. These two major issues now pose serious threats to all flights using 737-800s.
In the Dominican Republic, several air carriers still use 737-800s for arrivals and departures: When American airline Southwest decided to increase its flights to Punta Cana last year, the company decided to use Boeing 737 700s and 800s in its fleet.
Similarly, American Airlines has 265 737-800s in service, Southwest Airlines has 205, United Airlines has 136 and Delta Airlines has 77.
All of these major airlines fly weekly to Las Americas International in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana International and Gregorio Luperon Airport in Puerto Plata, causing concern for first-time travellers to the Dominican Republic.
This has caused further issues for the aforementioned airline companies, as budget airlines are now appearing to be a safer option. Currently, Frontier Airlines (who announced new routes from the U.S to the Dominican Republic in May) and Spirit airlines do not operate any Boeing aircraft. They also offer flights from various U.S cities at a much lower rate than their full-fare counterparts, which is set to entice many travellers over this summer period.
Not all budget airlines have followed suit. Dominican newcomer Arajet will obtain 11 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft between 2022-2023, with the potential to lease more as the demand grows.
As the summer season approaches, the Dominican Republic is set to have one of the highest rates of international tourists throughout the Caribbean region. With many Covid -19 restrictions lifting and travel becoming more accessible than ever before, there are worries that potential difficulties with flights using 737-800s could deter people from holidaying in the sunny country.
Since April 2022, 7,124 737NG aircraft have been ordered globally – with the majority being the 737-800 edition. Visitors travelling to the Dominican Republic by air should check the model of their aircraft and monitor any delays or repairs that could occur before or during their journey.
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