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'I would be' concerned about flying on a Boeing 737 Max 8, warns ex-Transportation Secretary LaHood

Key Points
  • Ray LaHood is doubling down on his call for the FAA to join most of the rest of the world and ground Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after two deadly crashes.
  • The former Transportation secretary says he would worry "until you can be assured" the jets are safe by FAA and Boeing inspections.
  • However, ex-American CEO Robert Crandall says he would fly on a Max 8.  "If my kids or grandkids were going to get on the airplane, I'd tell them to go."
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Former Transportation Secretary: The FAA should ground the 737 Max 8

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, on CNBC Wednesday, doubled down on his call for the Federal Aviation Administration to join most of the rest of the world and ground Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, after two of those jets were involved in deadly crashes less than five months apart.

Two U.S. airlines operate 737 Max 8s in their fleets. Southwest Airlines has 34. American has 24. United does not have any Max 8s, but it does operate 14 Max 9s, a larger version of the jet, which has not been involved in any crashes.

Asked if he would be concerned about flying on a Southwest or American 737 Max 8, LaHood said in a "Squawk on the Street" interview, "I would be … until you can be assured through an inspection by FAA and by Boeing that the planes are safe to fly."

He wants to see what comes of the investigation into the latest crash, which involved an Ethiopian Airlines flight on Sunday. The other one was in October, when Indonesia's Lion Air saw one of its Max 8s go down in the Java Sea.

LaHood, a Republican who ran the Department of Transportation during former President Barack Obama's administration, reiterated his recommendation that all 737 Max 8s be grounded in the U.S. For its part, the FAA has maintained there's no basis to take the planes out of service.

Canada on Wednesday joined other nations and temporarily grounded Boeing 737 Max planes, making the U.S. a notable holdout. Canada also barred the jets from its airspace.

On Tuesday, Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg called President Donald Trump to express confidence in the plane's safety. LaHood said he does not believe politics are playing any part in the Trump administration's decision not to ground the planes.

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Former American Airlines CEO: If pilots say 737 Max 8 is safe to fly, I believe it

Meanwhile, Robert Crandall, ex-chairman and CEO of American, stood by his former airline's decision not to ground the 737 Max 8s. "If was going to fly today, I would get on the airplane without hesitation," he told "Squawk on the Street" in a later interview. "If my kids or grandkids were going to get on the airplane, I'd tell them to go. I would not have the slightest concern."

However, Crandall said he does recognize that some passengers who are fearful of this "perceived risk" should be allowed to switch flights, and do so without a change fee.

American has not waived its change fee.

Southwest, which never charges a change fee, told CNBC it would "waive fare differences that might normally apply " for travelers who wish to "rebook their flight to another aircraft type"