April 15, 2019 / 1:53 PM / 2 months ago

Trump says Boeing should fix, 'rebrand' grounded 737 MAX jet

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday urged Boeing Co to fix and “rebrand” its 737 MAX jetliner following two fatal crashes, as regulators worldwide continue to work with the planemaker to review its grounded best-selling aircraft.

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border during remarks about border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The Federal Aviation Administration has been meeting major airlines and convened a joint review with aviation regulators from other countries, while federal prosecutors, the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general’s office and a blue-ribbon panel are reviewing the plane’s certification.

In an early-morning post on Twitter, Trump, who owned the Trump Shuttle airline from 1989 to 1992 and is an aviation enthusiast, weighed in with his own advice.

“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. No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?” Trump tweeted.

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

Trump 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 planemaker which has won some 5,000 orders or around seven years of production for the aircraft.

Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg has apologized on behalf of Boeing for lives lost in two recent accidents and promised that it would address the risk that flight software meant to prevent the plane stalling could be activated by wrong data.

Boeing has also held dozens of briefings and simulator sessions for airline executives and pilots and held worldwide meetings with airline branding and communications staff.

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

Brand Finance, a UK-based consultancy that tracks the value of global brands, rejected the idea that Boeing should abandon the MAX brand but said its corporate reputation was in the firing line.

“This has without a doubt damaged Boeing’s reputation and we foresee a dent to the (Boeing) brand’s value at over $12 billion,” Chief Executive David Haigh said by email when asked about Trump’s comments.

“This is a temporary blip in the long run for Boeing,” he said, adding Toyota and others had recovered from similar high-profile crises without a drastic rebranding exercise.

Brand Finance had previously estimated the damage to the value of Boeing’s reputation at $7.5 billion immediately after the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner, the second fatal accident involving the 737 MAX in five months.

Boeing has the world’s most valuable aerospace brand, having seen the value of its overall corporate image rise by 61 percent to $32 billion in 2018, according to the same branding firm.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, Tim Hepher; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Toby Chopra

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