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Aboard a Max 8 Airplane: ‘I Didn’t Want to Say It and Get Anybody Nervous’

Category: Lifestyle,Travel

“I really didn’t follow the news,” said Andreas Johns, an administrator at the University of California.

“I’m not alarmed,” he said about his flight. “Things can go wrong. But I fly with Southwest pretty regularly.”

Ebony Wilson, who works in the tech industry in the Bay Area, reasoned that the flight was just a short hop. “If I were going across the country I might feel differently,” she said. “But it’s only an hour.”

Others were more worried. Chiara Lesec, a digital marketing researcher who was flying to Los Angeles for a business meeting, had discussed the wisdom of taking the flight with her husband and researched the location of the safest seats on the aircraft.

“You have a better chance if you’re right behind the wing,” Ms. Lesec said.

As passengers gathered at Gate B26 at Midway Airport in Chicago, sipping Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and wolfing down French fries, more and more governments announced that the Max 8 would be grounded: the Dutch, the French, then the whole European Union.

But as the shiny blue plane pulled up to the gate in Chicago, “MAX 8” painted in white beneath its nose, the focus was on lining up strollers for family boarding and explaining Southwest’s distinct boarding system to first-time customers. Just as in California, no official mentioned the plane model.

Some travelers — like Jon Roberts, 27, returning to Virginia after a work trip in Nevada — were happily unaware of the plane’s recent troubles. “I was pretty much asleep the whole time,” Mr. Roberts said while waiting at baggage claim after the flight was over, when he learned for the first time that he had flown on a Max 8.

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