Travel is stressful enough at the best of times, let alone when a major aircraft starts having problems.
Boeing has recommended the grounding of its 737 MAX 8 aircrafts in the wake of crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia in the last five months, leaving airlines scrambling to come up with solutions and avoid throwing travel plans into disarray.
There are approximately 350 of the new generation 737 aircraft in use by airlines around the world and Boeing is working to find a solution as quickly as possible.
So here’s how the widespread grounding of aircraft could affect your travel plans.
How will I know if I’m going to fly on one of these aircraft?
If you are in any doubt, it’s best to contact your airline or travel agent.
This information is often shown on your booking confirmation, although the fine print probably contains information saying airlines reserve the right to change this due to “operational reasons”.
Flight tracking websites like Flight Radar and Flight Stats and many more show the type of aircraft the airlines intend to use.
Travel website Kayak has also come up with an option that may soothe the nerves of passengers.
“We’ve recently received feedback to make Kayak’s filters more granular in order to exclude particular aircraft models from search queries,” a website spokeswoman said.
What happens to my travel plans?
Only two airlines currently use the aircraft within Australia — Silk Air and Fiji Airways — and both have made alternate arrangements during the grounding.
Silk Air, which operated the aircraft on flights between Singapore and Darwin and Singapore and Cairns, switched to older Boeing 737-800s after grounding its fleet this week.
Fiji Airways, which operated two of the aircraft and has three more on order, has also grounded the aircraft temporarily and switched to the 737-800 on its flights to Australia.
The extent of the groundings in some of the world’s largest travel markets — North America, Europe and China — has left some passengers stranded.
Norwegian Airlines, which operates 18 of the aircraft, has been helping affected customers by “combining flights, reallocating aircraft and booking customers to other departures”, according to chief executive Bjorn Kjos.
American Airlines Group said it was working to rebook customers due to fly on the 737 MAX as quickly as possible after the United States banned the aircraft.
Southwest, the world’s largest operator of the 737 MAX 8 with 34 jets, said it was waiving any fare-difference charges for customers who wanted to switch to another aircraft.
Will my travel insurance cover any changes?
Campbell Fuller, head of communications at the Insurance Council of Australia, said passengers needed to prove to their insurers that they had suffered a “financial loss” if they were to make a claim in relation to the groundings.
He said most travellers in and out of Australia were likely to be unaffected.
Mr Fuller said passengers who had missed connecting flights or a whole night’s accommodation because of the changes may have grounds to make a travel insurance claim.
He said being rebooked on another flight or checking in a few hours late for accommodation was not considered a financial loss.
Mr Fuller said the insurance council recommended flyers talked to their travel agent or airline directly to see if they were likely to be affected by the groundings.
He said it was also important to speak with accommodation providers, who he said were often understanding of disruptions to travel plans.
Information about the level of cover is included in product disclosure statements, or by contacting the insurer.
How long will it take to fix the problem?
Boeing has promised a solution “in the coming weeks”.
It has been working on a software patch since the Lion Air flight crashed into the Java Sea in October.
Boeing says its software update is “designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer”.