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Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

In an “Axios on HBO” interview, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told Axios’ Felix Salmon he believes the Boeing’s 737 MAX is safe — but will work to reassure customers of its safety.

Why it matters: Fliers may not just be wary because of COVID-19. They may also be afraid to board that MAX, after its software malfunctioned causing two crashes that killed hundreds.

  • Southwest has more 737 MAX jets than any other domestic carrier.

Driving the news: The FAA said the embattled plane could return to the skies, following the longest grounding in aviation history spurred by the two fatal crashes.

What they’re saying: “Aviation is the safest way to travel, and has been for decades. It is heavily, heavily regulated and with very skilled people involved,” says Kelly.

 More from the exchange...

Kelly: Can mistakes happen? It's a human endeavor, so yes, they can. But if you just take the MAX as an example that we talked about earlier, it has been the most heavily scrutinized airplane in the history of mankind.

Salmon: Could have used some of that scrutiny before it crashed. 

Kelly: Well, I think we all recognize that we wish we had then what we have now, there's no question. But we are where we are. And the fact of the matter is, we believe, based on very sound facts and judgment that it is a very safe airplane.

Kelly also said Southwest will do its part to reassure passengers who may be wary about the 737 MAX:

  • “We'll need to communicate. We'll need to explain. We'll need to have credible experts, like pilots who are in a position to explain. Whether people are, in turn, reassured is a different question.”

📺 Catch the full "Axios on HBO" interview with Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly and much more on Monday, Nov. 23 at 11pm ET/PT on all HBO platforms.

Go deeper

Nov 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

Some air travelers pay premium for social distancing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Business travel remains depressed during the pandemic, but some airlines are seeing more leisure travelers in their first-class cabins.

Why it matters: Many people are avoiding air travel during the public health crisis, fearful they'll catch COVID-19 from a nearby passenger. But for those who can afford it, premium class seats offer more comfort and perhaps a little extra breathing room.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.