Many Americans say aviation authorities did not respond adequately to Boeing 737 MAX 8 issues

April 02, 2019, 9:00 PM GMT+0

A majority (56%) believe that flying these days is “very safe”

The grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 planes in the wake of two deadly crashes may not have scared fliers from airplane travel, but in the latest YouGov poll most of them believe that the Federal Aviation Authority could have done better and acted sooner in responding to the tragedies.

Frequent fliers are paying more attention than occasional fliers to these events. More than half of frequent fliers (51%) say they have heard a lot about the grounding of the 737 MAX 8, compared with 38% of those who fly occasionally, and just 19% of those who never fly. But while fliers may care more about air safety, all Americans criticize the FAA for its response.

Just about the same percentage believe the agency is more concerned about protecting the airline industry (airlines and manufacturers) as say it is more interested in protecting passengers.

Still, Americans view the FAA favorably, though many don’t take a position one way or the other. By 42% to 14%, they believe the FAA does a good job of regulating air safety. But many aren’t sure, including a quarter of those who fly frequently.

Air safety is a matter of some concern to a majority of the public: 55% express concern about the safety of commercial aviation, and 15% are very concerned. But the level of concern isn’t any greater among those who fly. In fact, those people who have never flown on an airplane (22% of all adults in the poll) are the most concerned. 58% of them are concerned about the safety of air travel, including 24% who are very concerned. That opinion may have kept some of them off airplanes, even before the 737 MAX 8 crashes.

There are less positive feelings about Boeing, the 737 MAX 8’s manufacturer. Half the public has an unfavorable or mixed view of the company. The most frequent fliers are nearly as likely to say their opinion of Boeing is negative as positive. This question also generates a clear partisan reaction: Republicans, in general, are favorable toward the company, Democrats are narrowly unfavorable.

Twelve years ago, the Pew Research Center asked whether people had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Boeing (no middle option was offered). By 61% to 6%, the opinion then was overwhelmingly favorable.

Still, Americans say commercial aviation is very safe – and by more than three to one. Most of those who fly agree. Those who have never flown are divided. However, one in four frequent fliers say they don’t think of commercial airplanes as very safe.

High-income fliers are more content about air safety than others; more male than female fliers describe air travel as very safe.

Image: Getty