SoCal couple on Alaska Airlines flight during door blowout speaks out as Boeing Max 9 flights resume

Leticia Juarez Image
Saturday, January 27, 2024
SoCal couple on Alaska Airlines flight during door blowout speaks out
A Riverside couple that was on the Alaska Airlines flight when a panel blew out of the side is speaking out on the ordeal.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners are carrying passengers in the U.S. again for the first time since they were grounded after a panel blew out of the side of one of the planes on a Southern California-bound flight.

However, some passengers who experienced the ordeal aren't happy with how the airline has handled it, and have since hired lawyers, including Joanie and Gilbert Marin of Riverside.

"It was so loud, and the noise continued, and the plane was shaking like crazy ... we didn't know what was happening," recalled Joanie, who spoke with Eyewitness News about the incident.

The couple was returning home from Connecticut after visiting their daughter. They were seated just two rows behind the gaping hole.

"Seats A and B, the seats were empty ... so it just shattered us that these people were gone, but luckily, we found out there was nobody there," said Joanie.

The National Transportation Safety Board revealed the same plane had three previous incidents with an auto pressurization fail light. It prompted Alaska Airlines to order the aircraft not to fly over open water.

"How dare they put us in that safety situation?" said Joanie. "They knew they had problems."

The Marins have since hired an attorney and say the experience left them emotionally traumatized for which they were offered $1,500 each by the airline as compensation.

"We're going to see what these corporations do, and see how they behave and see if they step up, accept responsibility and own what happened," said attorney Nick Rowley. "If they don't, then we'll be in a courtroom in front of a jury and they'll regret it."

Alaska Airlines resumed a limited number of flights with its Max 9s on Friday. United aims to follow suit on Sunday, but a spokeswoman said the airline might use them as spare planes Friday or Saturday.

Those are the only two U.S. airlines that operate this particular model of the Boeing 737.

After seeing video of the frightening flight of a plane with a gaping hole in its side, passengers might reasonably be asking questions about safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration has detailed the process that airlines must follow to inspect - and if necessary, repair - the panels called door plugs, one of which broke loose on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 on Jan. 5. The plugs are used to seal holes left for extra doors on the Max 9 when an unusually high number of seats requires more exits for safety reasons.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker says his agency's review of everything that has happened since the accident, including gathering information about inspections of door plugs on 40 other planes, gives him confidence that they will be safe so long as the new inspection process is followed.

"Would I get on one? No," said Joanie.

Eyewitness News has reached out to Alaska Airlines for a response to the Marins' comments but has not heard back.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.