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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

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.