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Travelers' Aid

October 16, 1999


This week's question:

Boeing 737 Safety

The Boeing 737 airplane has long been considered a standard in domestic travel. Almost every airline uses them, so your chances of boarding a 737 for a flight within the U.S. are pretty good -- and that has some people nervous. Recently we've heard reports of a flaw in some of the older planes' rudder systems, and some of you have called asking about the safety of flying on 737s. Nina in Massachusetts says she was always afraid of flying. But now the news of the rudder problems has increased her phobia.

I don't know if Nina's really convinced, so for her and those of you who still have doubts, we called travel agent Ellen Castleman. She's with Pleasure Travel in Los Angeles and I asked, if, say, you booked a flight, then later found out it was on a 737, would she be able to help you change to another aircraft.

So, we can't give you any definite answers to totally dispel your travel fears. Hopefully the fact that 737s are some of the safest planes in the air, will make you feel a little better. We can say this for sure, 737s are here to stay. And the word in the industry is that the N.T.S.B. and the airlines continue to investigate the problem.

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If you're still worried and you haven't bought your ticket yet, here's what you can do:

  • If you buy your ticket on the Internet, most Web sites list the model of the airplane used on a specific flight so you can check to see if it's a 737.
  • If you're using a travel agent, have your agent check on the model of plane before you buy your ticket.
  • Be forewarned: Some airlines, Southwest, for example, only fly 737s so this might limit your possibilities. Also, on some routes are only served by 737s.

If you've already bought your ticket:

  • You'll probably have to pay a fee to change airplanes. Unless you have a fully refundable ticket, the airline will charge you to change any aspect of your flight itinerary.

Contact Information

  • Ellen Castleman
    Pleasure Travel


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