Grounded planes raise questions for travelers

Ottawa County

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Travel plans for some people in West Michigan are seemingly up in the air following the grounding of all Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets.

Thursday morning, hours after the federal order was issued, several flights out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids were cancelled.

Pamela Miller, who lives in Jenison, is scheduled to leave Saturday for her annual trip with friends and family. For more than 10 years, they’ve gone to Florida to soak up some sun.

“It’s an annual trip for us and yes, we are excited to go and have some sunshine for a while,” she told 24 Hour News 8.

While Miller’s mind was on the sunny skies ahead, one of her friends told her that the flight information listed for their Southwest Airlines flight to Tampa has them on a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Miller said she was in partial disbelief when she saw it was the airline’s only flight from Grand Rapids to Tampa set to use one of the grounded jets.

“At this point we don’t know what’s happening,” Miller said. “We haven’t had any formal email from Southwest yet to tell us either it’s canceled. Is it delayed? Have they replaced the plane?”

Miller said she didn’t want to bombard Southwest with questions, but plans to contact customer service Thursday if she hasn’t received more details.

“I would like to know that Southwest has a plan,” she said.

The airline tweeted Wednesday that MAX 8 jets make up less than 5 percent of its fleet. The tweet also said travelers with canceled flights can book new ones free of charge. It has to be within two weeks of the original flight.

Miller said the yearslong tradition will continue, whether they fly on a different jet or even if the grounding order is lifted before Saturday.

“I haven’t been afraid, but yet how can you not be concerned when there are two similar crashes and we just don’t have all the answers yet?” she said.

Miller and her group of friends and family bought their tickets months ago. She believes there’s enough time to find a solution before her scheduled flight Saturday.

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