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Travel agent sees 15-fold increase in customers filtering out Boeing 737 Max planes

Passenger oxygen masks hang from the roof next to a missing window on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 (AP)
Passenger oxygen masks hang from the roof next to a missing window on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 (AP)

An online travel agent has seen a dramatic increase in travellers using their aircraft filter to exclude Boeing’s 737 Max flights.

An Alaska Airlines plane suffered a blowout that left a gaping hole in the side of the fuselage earlier this month, leaving around 171 Boeing 737-9 Max jets grounded by America’s Federal Aviation Administration.

Kayak first introduced its aircraft filter in March 2019, which allows people to select which plane models they would like to fly on.

Following the Alaska Airlines incident, the feature is being used 15 times more than it was, The Guardian reported.

The company has since enhanced the filter, making it appear more prominently on the search page and adding the ability to differentiate between 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes.

A Kayak spokesperson said: “Whether you’re searching by cabin class, flight quality or aircraft type, Kayak’s filters aim to provide travellers with all the information they need to make smart decisions and travel with confidence.”

This week, Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun will meet with US senators to answer questions about the 737 Max 9 grounding.

He is set to hold meetings an Capitol Hill, while scheduled to meet with Senators Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Commerce Committee.

Last week, she said she plans to hold a hearing about the grounding. Numerous lawmakers on Capitol Hill have questioned Boeing.

The company told Senators Ed Markey, JD Vance and Peter Welch in a previously unreported January letter that it was working to "restore trust with its regulators and its customers".

On Tuesday, United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby said the airline, which has ordered 277 Max 10 jets with options for another 200, would build a new fleet plan that does not include a model already mired in regulatory and delivery delays.

Industry watchers have sought concrete signs that Boeing's woes with the Max 9 and the legacy of earlier Max safety groundings are undermining support for the larger Max 10, which makes up more than a fifth of outstanding Max orders.

"I think the Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel's back for us," Mr Kirby said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday.

Boeing shares are down 15 per cent since the incident.