Giving Flyers the Right to Choose

No, not paper flyers—this is not a write up on the rights of cheap handouts given out by a club promoter with too much hair gel. I’m talking humans on planes; the people that Boeing doesn’t care about.

The tragedies that happened on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were part of a lazy attempt by Boeing to compete with Airbus while saving costs on engineers, and gaming the FAA’s approval process for new planes.

The company’s stock suffered big time, falling nearly 8 percent, and the CEO has said he will get on the first Boeing 737 Max 8 to take flight after the promised software update.

What I’m not understanding, is how after all this, Boeing and its executives didn’t receive more serious repercussions. Despite all this activity by a company simply protecting its profits, the FAA and POTUS still decide to protect the company by not grounding until days after the rest of the planet.

My question in all of this is: How are we, as flyers, able to get more control on this situation?

While Tech companies like to say that they make tech to help their users, a simple glance at any flight booking website proves otherwise. Without going into the now well-documented dark patterns these companies deploy, I’d like to propose an additional filter by which we can search for flights: Avoid Boeing 737 Max 8.

Expedia with the added Avoid Boeing 737 Max8 filter

Having Nonstop and Refundable Flights under “Advanced” options is clearly a user-hostile move, but we’ll play their game for today. Since flights that let you get your money back are apparently an “Advanced” option, why not throw in the option to avoid plane manufacturers that don’t care as well?

It would take 15 minutes to implement, and could probably ensure that the Max never flies again. However it will never get implemented—and it’s not Expedia’s fault. If Expedia were to go ahead and do this, any airlines that have bought a Max recently would delist all their flights from there. That would mean that flights to some countries would simply not be bookable on Expedia, and enough people would probably still rather fly there than make a political statement.

This is exactly what I mean by giving flyers the right to choose. Our modern tech stack and intermingled web of data is setup in a way that seems like we have choices, when in fact we don’t. If Expedia chooses to do a user-friendly move like this, will jump on the opportunity and announce that they have exclusive access to flights to countries only accessible by certain airlines that fly the Max. For people where flying back home is not an option, their political determination will surely weaken.

An alternative could be a web browser extension. This could easily scan the results page generated by any booking website, and remove options from the list that have the Max as the airplane. Once again, our choices are squashed the minute we acknowledge the sheer volume of flight research and bookings being done on mobile devices—a purely extension-free experience.

The friendly, seemingly open demeanour of modern digital interfaces provides us with a soothing sensation of familiarity, choice, and power all at the same time. In fact, this is often not the case. Interface design decisions are made by people we will never meet in companies whose goals are misaligned with our own—much like in the design of the Max.

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