Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

What do you do when your customers start thinking about your product in a completely different way?

I fancy this conundrum might be affecting the sleep of one or two airline executives these days.

In previous times, many people didn't think twice -- or even once -- about what sort of plane they'd be flying in.

After more than 300 people died in two crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX8 -- and after Boeing's somewhat late apology -- passengers are suddenly paying detailed attention.

I've had flyers contact me to ask how they can find out what sort of plane a particular flight will be. (Answer: click on Details in your flight listing and it should be there.)

Some Southwest Airlines passengers have begun to express their trepidation in poignant ways. They're doing things they don't normally do.

They're getting on planes and actually checking the safety card.

Who does that? It used to be hardly anybody. Now, things seem to have changed.

These Southwest passengers, however, are getting a shock when they look at the card.

You see, the airline has printed one card for both its Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX 8 planes.

After all, these planes have considerable similarities.

Yet the minute passengers see MAX 8 on the card, they assume that's the plane they're flying. 

And they start to feel uncomfortable. Worse, they go to the home of the uncomfortable -- Twitter -- to express themselves.

For some, it's nerve-wracking. Others present their feelings in even more colorful terms.

Perhaps this seems almost comical.

How could these people be fooled? 

Yet it's instructive for Southwest -- other airlines, too -- that there may now be increased passenger scrutiny of the type of plane being offered.

Even if the FAA gives the MAX its ultimate safety blessing, it doesn't mean passengers will be keen on flying it.

There might be resistance. This could even cause airlines to consider making MAX flights cheaper.

When it comes to American and United Airlines' version of the MAX, these flights should be cheaper, as there are far too many seats for human comfort.

Still, Southwest -- which doesn't have such a punitive configuration -- has most to lose with the grounding of the MAX.

It has 34 of the planes. It's currently canceling 150 flights a day.

Will it now have to incentivize passengers back on to the MAX?

Or will it hope it'll be business as usual?

Published on: Apr 11, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.