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United Airlines says it found loose bolts while inspecting Boeing 737 Max 9 planes

United Airlines says it found loose bolts while inspecting Boeing 737 Max 9 planes

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The company has canceled 200 flights in light of ‘installation issues’ in the door plugs of Boeing’s planes.

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A Boeing 737 Max 9 plane taking off.
A United Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 taking off from LAX in September 2023.
Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

United Airlines says it discovered loose bolts holding on door plugs like the one that blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight on Friday, causing the plane to make an emergency landing back at its originating airport. A representative for United who only identified themselves as “Erin” told The Verge in an email that since beginning inspections of the planes on Saturday, it has “found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug — for example, bolts that needed additional tightening.”

The Air Current first reported that United had found loose plugs on “at least” five aircraft. Now, United has confirmed the discovery and says its technicians will remedy the installation issues and “safely return the aircraft to service.” The company says it has 79 Boeing 737 Max 9 in its fleet.

Erin also wrote that service on the planes is suspended and that it has canceled 200 Boeing 737 Max 9 flights. United also expects “significant cancellations on Tuesday as well.”

Boeing is “staying in close contact” with the airlines as they inspect the planes and will help to address issues they find, Jessica Kowal, Boeing’s media relations director, said in an emailed statement to The Verge. Kowal said the company is “committed to ensuring every Boeing airplane meets design specifications.” She added, “We regret the impact this has had on our customers and their passengers.”

United’s inspection process involves removing two rows of seats and the wall’s liner, which the company says it has already done on most planes. It says it then opens the door to inspect the surrounding area, including the seal, then closes it, “ensuring proper fit and security.” The company says five techs inspect each plane for several hours.

The FAA began requiring the inspections after the Alaska Airlines incident and has directed companies to repair any issues they find. Alaska Airlines said that it hadn’t found any concerning issues while inspecting the first quarter of its 737 Max 9 fleet.

Update January 8th, 2024, 7:08PM ET: Added a statement from Jessica Kowal, Boeing’s media relations director.