Print Сite this

Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction


The crash of two Boeing 737 Max planes was one of the most significant aircraft accidents affecting the entire world. Hundreds of people died in the two crashes, and many families are still looking for a fair solution and an apology from the company. The main reason for the concerns was that accident was caused by mistake in the manufacture of a whole series of aircraft used around the world but not the inexperience of the pilots, coordinators, or airlines. In addition, some investigations demonstrated that Boeing had the opportunity to fix the problem and prevent a second crash by admitting its mistake (Newburger and Josephs, 2019). However, the lack of a quality emergency response plan and communication resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, as well as the loss of the reputation and legitimacy of the Boeing company. Consequently, this paper will examine the actions of Boeing company that led to the crisis, as well as management’s attempts to resolve it, to assess the effectiveness of emergency response management.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

History of the Crisis

The Boeing crisis was triggered by a series of events and management choices that put the company’s operations at risk. The first accident occurred in Indonesia when Lion Air Flight JT 610 crashed after takeoff in October 2018, and all 189 passengers and crew were killed (Gelles, 2019). An investigation into the accident has begun; however, the Boeing 737 Max continued to operate under various airlines. Five months later, on March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing 157 people on board (Gelles, 2019). This accident was similar to the previous one, since, in both cases, the nose of the aircraft dropped down during rising of height, which caused the fall (Travica, 2020). Consequently, this connection gave impetus for a more thorough investigation and verification of the Boeing 737 Max, since this coincidence, in the opinion of many people, could not be accidental.

Further investigations showed that the cause of this malfunction was several flaws in the aircraft design. Precisely, these flaws were engine misalignment and failure of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) due to the use of only one sensor for monitoring the position of the plane (MacMillan, 2019). At the same time, the pilots did not receive training to operate the new aircraft model, and did not know about its new element, and therefore could not respond to a dangerous situation (Herkert, Borenstein, and Miller, 2020). Consequently, a technical malfunction of the aircraft caused accidents but not human factors or weather conditions.

However, more important are the mistakes in management and leadership, which led to the emergence of a technical failure and the deterioration of the crisis. First, according to some experts, the shortcomings of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) were the result of a disregard for company values ​​and a desire to make a profit. Pontefract (2019) notes that Boeing was keen to release a new aircraft model faster with fewer fuel costs as their competitor Airbus had already announced the release of a similar model. The company did not want to lose customers and developed the Boeing 737 Max based on the existing line in a short time, and this time pressure is one of the causes of technical flaws. For example, Herkert, Borenstein, and Miller (2020) suggest that the MCAS setup was a way to mask the dynamic instability of the jet because of engine relocation to save fuel. Consequently, the tight deadline for the development of a new model has led to inadequate engineering planning, which eliminates the significance of ​​Boeing’s safety values.

Moreover, the subsequent certification and evaluation of the Boeing 737 Max was also insufficiently accurate, which allowed Boeing to bring the aircraft into service without pilot training. As Herkert, Borenstein, and Miller (2020) note, aircraft self-certification has become a standard procedure allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and by 2018 Boeing had certified 96% of its aircraft. Boeing received approval for a simplified safety certification procedure as the company introduced a new aircraft derived from the existing line as if it had no significant changes (Hall and Goelz, 2019). This factor also relates to the issue of training and informing pilots about new features of the model, since training requires significant time and money, and telling about changes would not allow Boeing to get certified quickly. Moreover, Gelles (2019), says that key officials at the FAA never thoroughly reviewed the final version of the MCAS software, which demonstrates another management issue but at a higher level. Consequently, deliberate or unintentional neglect of safety led to technical problems and the pilots’ ignorance of the ability to respond to the problem, which caused the death of 350 people.

Analysis of Steps Taken by Boeing After the Accidents

A crisis response plan is a necessity, especially in the aviation field as the life of the people and the reputation of the company depend on the steps of management. The Emergency Response Plan should be elaborate, timely, and relevant to different situations, and should include both steps to assist accident victims and their families and steps to communicate with the public. Moreover, all staff member should know their responsibilities, the leader needs to be ready to control and direct subordinates, and the press center can even have templates for a quick reaction in the media. However, Boeing’s reaction demonstrates that the company did not have a good strategy for action, which led to a decrease in its reputation, user confidence, and thus profit.

One of Boeing’s most significant mistakes was the lack of action following the plane crash in Indonesia, which led to a decline in trust in the company and the second crash in Ethiopia. First, there was virtually no information about the accident on the company’s official social media pages, apart from a sympathetic Twitter post with the link to this statement on the official site (Boeing, 2018; Travica, 2020). In addition, Boeing executives did not take any steps to ground the Boeing 737 Max or warn pilots about the new aircraft features. The reasons for this silence could be different since the company later took a defensive position by claiming that “there’s nothing wrong with the 737 Max design” (Newburger and Josephs, 2019). Consequently, if the second accident had not occurred, it would have been easier for Boeing to defend its reputation.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

The steps following the Ethiopia Airlines plane crash were even more ill-considered and erroneous. First, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends sending key messages within 24 hours of the incident to monitor and direct public response. For example, the first tweet should be posted 15 minutes after the event, and then the company should continually add relevant information, including the first media appearance of the most senior executive within 3 hours, and a press conference within 6 hours (IATA, 2016). Goldstein (2019) also cites a media expert noting that the main rule of PR is to direct the story before the media does it instead of the company. In this way, the company can have more control over the information that the media spreads and inspire more trust in viewers.

Nevertheless, Boeing’s management did not follow this rule of immediate reaction and also has sent confusing messages. Apart from several tweets on and after the day of the crash, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s first statement came only a week after the crash, in which he expressed condolences to the families of the victims (Goldstein, 2019). Muilenburg recorded a video message instead of a conference, which further aroused mistrust since journalists and citizens could not ask questions. Boeing also declared for a long time about the good state of the aircraft and the error of the pilots that led to accidents (Baker, 2019). Therefore, communication with the media and public does not contribute to Boeing’s reputation.

Furthermore, helping the victims and their families, as well as offering apologies and condolences, is an important element of post-accident reaction. The International Civil Aviation Organization (2013) in its guideline, outlines the essential points in the interaction with the families of victims, such as the provision of information, physical, material, and psychological assistance. For example, these steps could include connecting a 24-hour hotline, placing families in hotels, providing assistance with extradition of the body, and psychological support. This responsibility also lies with the staff of the airport and the airline that operated the flight, but in the case of Boeing, they had to perform the main actions.

There is not enough open-source information to judge the company’s response immediately after the crashes, but Boeing’s actions demonstrate that management has not done enough to support families and protect the reputation of the company. First, as Goldenstein (2019) notes, the families of people killed in Ethiopia were forced to bury empty coffins, since the identification of the remains took up to 6 months. Boeing also announced that it would pay compensation to families only six months after the second crash under the pressure of numerous lawsuits (Shepardson, 2019). Consequently, this slowdown and the need for families to go through all the events on the continuation of a long time negatively affected their reaction and trust in the company.

Moreover, the leaders of the company were required to express condolences and apologies and make every effort to demonstrate their disturbance and concerns about the accidents. However, Boeing’s confusing statements about the state of aircraft, changes to the software, pilots’ fault, and other attempts to protect the company are not sincere apologies and remorse (Baker, 2019). On the contrary, instead of grounding the Boeing 737 Max unimpeded, the company asked Donald Trump for help, which was a harmful PR move (Sucher, 2019). These actions are an impulse for mistrust and anger, not only of the families of the victims but of all people tracking the situation. Consequently, Boeing’s reaction to the two plane crashes demonstrates a lack of an emergency response plan as well as a lack of understanding of public communications.

Impact of Boeing’s Response on the Company

The wrong steps that were taken by Boeing’s management after the accidents hurt the company’s reputation and legitimacy, as well as its profit and operations. Firstly, the very fact of the accidents frightened many passengers and airlines, which became the reason for the refusal to use the Boeing 737, Max. All countries, including the United States, have grounded the Boeing 737 Max after the crash in Ethiopia, until the end of the investigation to prevent possible new accidents. This step is logical and appropriate from the safety point of view and is a consequence of the very fact of the crash.

Furthermore, a lack of empathy, admitting mistakes, and efforts to correct harm have created Boeing’s image as a company that cares about profit but not safety. As Goldstein writes (2019), in its attempts to avoid a legal trial, Boeing still cannot prevent public judgments, which has more severe consequences for it. At the same time, the families of the victims express their distrust to both Boeing and the FAA that allowed the aircraft to be certified despite errors in the design and systems of the new model (Leggett, 2020). Consequently, the confidence of passengers and airlines in Boeing as a manufacturer has also declined, affecting the demand for their other products. As Newburger and Josephs noted (2019), one poll of passengers indicated that they would avoid the Max aircraft for extended periods, even when they were returned to service. Thus, Boeing’s inappropriate response to the crisis and defending its positions instead of expressing sympathy and offering help to the families of the victims provoked a more negative reaction to the company’s mistakes. This approach has destroyed Boeing’s image as one of the best aircraft manufacturers.

We will write a custom
for you!
Get your first paper with
15% OFF
Learn More

These events also impacted Boeing’s earnings due to aircraft grounding and a loss in company stock. Profit losses after two accidents are a natural result of such an event, since assistance to victims and families, investigation, as well as legal services, require significant funds. In addition, the recall of aircraft and orders has cost the company billions of dollars; for example, Indonesian’s airline, Garuda, canceled a $ 5 billion order for a Boeing 737 Max (Baker, 2019). However, this airline was not the only one who took such measures to protect passengers and their own business.

Nevertheless, the decline in customer and public trust and the manufacturer’s reputation has also led to a significant decrease in Boeing’s share price. On the same day after the crash in Ethiopia, the company’s stocks fell 16%, and its losses for the year are about $ 18 billion only due to the cost of the Boeing 737 Max (Newburger and Josephs, 2019; Johnsson and Blomberg, 2020). Moreover, Jacques (2019) notes that the total cost can reach $ 30 billion or more. These losses are the result of both the crashes and aircraft problems themselves and the deterioration of the company’s reputation due to the lack of a crisis response plan; however, the impact of accidents might not be as devastating if leaders could properly manage their consequences.


Therefore, the Boeing example demonstrates that the lack of strategic steps and appropriate responses to crises is one of the most significant mistakes for the company. Unfortunately, fatal accidents in aviation happen, since people are behind every process of designing, creating, and operating an aircraft. For this reason, for airlines and aircraft manufacturers, responding to an accident is as crucial as taking action to prevent it. In Boeing’s case, there were many unclear details and mistakes of leaders that led to the crash; however, management cannot change them and return time. The golden rule of emergency response is to give up trying to manage the accident but to manage the response. However, Boeing damaged its reputation and profit by denying its mistakes, not having a response plan, and, as a consequence, taking the wrong steps.

Boeing’s main mistakes were the lack of response to the first accident in Indonesia, the unwillingness to admit guilt and apologize for its mistakes, and insufficient communication with the press. The first three mistakes led to both a repeat accident and the formation of the company’s image as one that prioritizes profit over customer interests. Consequently, customers distrust the company and its products, which affected Boeing’s sales and profits. At the same time, insufficient use of social networks and media, as well as significant time delays allowed the media to shape their vision of the situation, and Boeing could only make excuses. These aspects had decisive implications for Boeing, as the quick response, apology, and harm remedy would show the as responsible and wanting to improve, which would soften public reaction. However, the company adopted a wrong and inconsistent strategy with devastating consequences. Consequently, the Boeing 737 crash demonstrates the importance of emergency response management in aviation and the need for planning.

Reference List

Baker, S. (2019) ‘Boeing’s response to the 737 Max crisis confused and frightened people, making it hard to believe its apologies, experts say’, Business Insider, (May). Web.

Boeing Airplanes (2018) [Twitter] Web.

Gelles, D. (2019) ‘Boeing 737 Max: What’s happened after the 2 deadly crashes’, The New York Times, Web.

Goldstein, M. (2019) ‘Boeing shows ‘what not to do’ In 737 MAX crisis communications, expert says’, Forbes, Web.

Need a
100% original paper
written from scratch

by professional
specifically for you?
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Hall, J. and Goelz, P. (2019) ‘The Boeing 737 MAX crisis is a leadership failure’, The New York Times, Web.

Herkert, J., Borenstein, J. and Miller, K. (2020) ‘The Boeing 737 MAX: lessons for engineering ethics’, Science and Engineering Ethics, 2020, pp. 1-18. Web.

Jacques, T. (2020) Crisis counsel: navigating legal and communication conflict. Brookfield: Rothstein Publishing.

Johnsson, J. and Bloomberg (2020) ‘Boeing reports historic earnings loss as 737 MAX costs surpass $18 billion’, Fortune. Web.

Leggett, T. (2020) ‘Victims’ families slam report into 737 Max crashes’, BBC, Web.

MacMillan, D. (2019). ”Our daughter died in vain’: what Boeing learns from plane crashes’, The Washington Post, Web.

Newburger, E. and Josephs, L. (2019) ‘What you need to know about Boeing’s 737 Max crisis’, CNBC, Web.

Pontefract, D. (2019) ‘Boeing’s 737 MAX crisis is a leadership issue’, Forbes, Web.

Shepardson, D. (2019) ‘Boeing to pay 737 MAX crash victims’ families $144,500 each’, Reuters, Web.

Sucher, S. (2019) ‘How Boeing should have responded to the 737 Max safety crisis’, Harvard Business Review, Web.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) (2016) Crisis communication and reputation management in the digital age. Web.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (2013) ICAO policy on assistance to aircraft accident victims and their families. Web.

Travica, B. (2020) ‘Mediating realities: a case of the Boeing 737 Max’, Informing Science, 23, pp. 25-46. Web.

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2022, April 22). Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, April 22). Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction.

Work Cited

"Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction." StudyCorgi, 22 Apr. 2022,

* Hyperlink the URL after pasting it to your document

1. StudyCorgi. "Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction." April 22, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction." April 22, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction." April 22, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Boeing 737 Max Accidents and the Company’s Reaction'. 22 April.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.