BENGALURU/OSLO – Travel website Kayak is making changes to let customers exclude specific aircraft types from searches and booking sites are looking to reroute passengers, after an unexplained Boeing jet crash that killed 157 people in Ethiopia.
The first move by one of the big US travel websites to adapt its service came as hundreds of jittery customers of Southwest, United and American Airlines took to social media to seek flights on planes other than the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which was involved in the fatal crash Sunday.
Other travel agents and websites reported a raft of rebookings as a result of cancellations caused by the grounding of 737 MAX jets by a long list of global authorities.
“We’ve recently received feedback to make Kayak’s filters more granular in order to exclude particular aircraft models from search queries,” a spokeswoman for the website told Reuters in an email responding to questions.
“We are releasing that enhancement this week and are committed to providing our customers with all the information they need to travel with confidence.”
Kayak is a sister site of Booking.com and Agoda.com, used by millions of travelers each year to book flights and hotels.
The crash in Ethiopia was the second in the last five months involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8. Last year, a Lion Air jet went down in Indonesia, killing 189 people.
Though there is no proof of links, multiple nations, including the US and the European Union, have suspended the 737 MAX.
‘Phone calls keep coming’
Temporary bouts of nerves among travelers are a familiar part of the reaction to major crashes and agents booking travel for major executives have remained cautious about making changes to booking systems in response to the Boeing row.
Norwegian travel agent Berg-Hansen, dealing with cancellations of flights on Norwegian Air’s 737 MAX planes, said clients were mainly concerned about whether their flights were still scheduled to fly and the need to rebook if so.
“We have increased our staff from last night, through the night and now,” Berg-Hansen chief executive officer Per-Arne Villadsen said.
“Remarkably we have less phone calls than we expected, although they are more than usual. We had around 100 phone calls from midnight to 7 a.m. this morning and they keep coming.”
He said the company was using alternative airlines including SAS, AirFrance and KLM to rebook and that he believed customers would come back to Norwegian Air if they reopened flights on the MAX in the future.
“We can confirm a rising interest on the aircraft types we are operating,” a spokesman for Swedish-based SAS said. “I can guarantee you that we have not even considered changing any pricing policy due to the tragic situation.”
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