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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.

California governor declares drought emergency in most counties

A sign in April on the outskirts of Buttonwillow in California's Kern County, one of the top agriculture producing counties in the San Joaquin Valley, after historically low winter rainfall. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover 41 of the state's 58 counties on Monday.

Why it matters: Most of California and the American West are experiencing an "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Newsom and other officials are concerned California could experience a repeat of the catastrophic 2020 wildfire season.

3 hours ago - World

Jerusalem crisis escalates after Hamas and Israel trade rocket fire

Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Nine children were among 20 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time since 2014 Monday, per AP and Reuters.

The big picture: The rockets come after escalating violence in Jerusalem has injured 250 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes that began Friday.