Travel Insurance

Travelling After the Boeing's 737 Max Crash: What You Need to Know

The recent tragic Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash that happened just a few months after the eerily similar Lion Air accident has airliners and investigators scrambling to find out what happened. We take a look at how the fallout will affect travellers.

The tragic crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8's in October 2018 and most recently on March 10, 2019, has led to a global fear of flying on these jets and discussions of why the two crashes seemed so similar. As we see concern spread from the general public to investors and airline executives, there are varying levels of responses to help quell consumer fear. While some airlines and government bodies are grounding the jets and cancelling flights, other airlines and governments are doing neither, instead standing by the safety and performance record of the jets. With such a variety of reactions, what should the average traveller expect if they booked a flight on a Boeing 737 Max 8? We outline what you need to know following the groundings.

Response of the Government, Insurers and Airline Carriers

As of March 12th, a total of 19 countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and Australia have either refused entry of 737 Max 8 planes or have had them grounded. The United States and Canada have done neither, with their Federal Aviation Administrations citing the safety and good performance of their 737 Max 8 fleets. Following the country's grounding of the Boeings, Singapore Airlines said it would reach out to customers whose flights have been affected. Singapore's travel insurers have so far stayed silent on the matter.

How Do These Responses Affect the Wary Traveller?

As mentioned above, airlines that cancelled Boeing 737 Max trips will reach out to affected travellers. If your airline carrier has not grounded the jets or you are flying to a country that has not banned entry to these flights, then your trip will be business as usual. Because there have been no reports of travel insurance companies offering compensation for flight cancellations, it is highly unlikely that you can expect to receive compensation if you cancel your flight. As a rule of thumb, travel insurers will only pay for cancellations or delays if there is a serious illness or death of a family member, a public emergency is declared in your destination or your flight is cancelled by the airline and no arrangements are made to reschedule your flight.

This is a screenshot of FWD's travel insurance policy document describing under what circumstances a cancellation claim is valid

Going forward, consumers who are easily swayed by accidents or catastrophes may find the greatest peace of mind in investing in a travel insurance policy that lets you cancel for any reason. Travel insurance plans that let you cancel for any reason give you the freedom to navigate your travel plans without the worry of losing money due to reasons that you may think are important but your insurer does not. Furthermore, you may be able to avoid flying on these jets completely as some airlines don't use them for certain routes. If your booking site doesn't let you know what type of airplane you'll be on, you can plug your itinerary into sites like Seat Guru, which show your trip's airplane, seating arrangement and other useful information. You should also read up on your flyer's rights if an unexpected event occurs and you find yourself stuck with a cancelled or delayed flight.

Reality of Flight Accidents

While deadly plane crashes can shake up even the most seasoned traveller, it may be of comfort to lean on statistics when thinking about air travel safety. Even in the case of the Boeing 737 Max, where two such crashes in a relatively short period of time can cause a stir among travellers, the actual crash rate is still very minimal. The Boeing 737 Max flies 5,800 flights per week, so the chance of you getting in a crash is fairly minimal. Not only that but the chance of you getting in a plane crash on any airline is one in 11 million. For comparison's sake, the chance of you getting cancer in your lifetime is between 20-25%.

The main fear of plane crashes stems from the unknown and uncontrollable—you never know when you will become that statistic and once you do, there is little you can do to change your fate. However, flying is still the safest mode of transportation, and as technology gets better, it will only become safer. This is further confirmed by the swift action taken by governments and airlines who erred on the side of caution by grounding the affected jets.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.

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