Donald Trump suggests Boeing should 'rebrand' troubled 737 Max aircraft in wake of fatal crashes

Rozina Sabur
The winglet of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 sits grounded at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - AP

Donald Trump has suggested Boeing should "rebrand" its grounded 737 Max fleet and give it "a new name" in the wake of two deadly crashes involving the jets.

The US president tweeted on Monday: "What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would fix the Boeing 737 Max, add some additional great features...rebrand the plane with a new name."

He added: "No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?"

American manufacturer Boeing was forced to ground its new 737 Max series worldwide last month after one of its planes crashed minutes after take off in Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on board. It followed a similar crash involving the model in Indonesia in October in which 189 people were killed.

Preliminary reports into the crashes suggests a flaw in the model's automation software was the cause of both tragedies. The reports have rocked the plane maker and prompted questions about how much Boeing knew about the software glitch in its best-selling aircraft.

The plane's grounding has also threatened the US summer travel season, with some airlines removing the 737 from their schedules through August.

Mr Trump, who is an aviation enthusiast, issued the tweet as Boeing tries to restore trust in its fastest-selling jet, the main source of profits and cash at the Chicago-based aviation giant which has won some 5,000 orders or around seven years of production for the aircraft.

Boeing's chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, has apologised for the fatalities in the two recent crashes and promised to fix any issues in the flight software.

The company has held dozens of briefings and simulator sessions for airline executives and pilots as well as meetings with airline branding and communications staff in a bid to relaunch the troubled Max fleet.

Pilots are expected to play a major role in regaining public confidence in the aircraft, but Mr Trump's tweet marks the first time the brand underpinning Boeing's profits in coming years has been thrown into question at a high level.

The president has previously blamed technological advances in the aftermath Ethiopian Airlines crash, saying “pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.”  He later went on to say he hoped the planes would only be grounded “for a short period of time” and noting the company is "one of our largest exporters".

According to recent estimates, airlines have racked up nearly $2 billion (£1.5 million) in extra costs as a result of the worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jets. Each day one the 387 aircraft in service sits on the ground it costs its operator $150,000 (£114,000), aerospace consultancy IBA said.