A Southwest Boeing 737 Max 8 enroute from Tampa prepares to land at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on March 11, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Image Credit: AFP

The Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that killed 157 people Sunday has rattled travelers around the world. Just six months ago, the same model of airplane — a Boeing 737 Max 8, operated by Lion Air — crashed off Indonesia and killed all 189 onboard.

While the cause of Sunday's tragedy remains undetermined, and the investigation into the Lion Air accident is continuing, several circumstances of these two crashes are similar.

200

number of passengers seats in a Boeing 737 Max 8

The 200-seat Boeing 737 Max 8 has been a popular plane since it came on the market in 2017, with more than 4,000 planes ordered within the first six months.

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The plane sold quickly based on features that passengers crave — a quieter cabin, more legroom — and bottom-line benefits to airlines, like fuel efficiencies.

The plane's entry into the market seemed like the rare win-win for both passengers and airlines.

At the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, nearly 350 Boeing 737 Max 8s were in operation around the world, including in the United States, on routes across the country: Miami to Los Angeles, Houston to Denver, San Francisco to Portland.

In the wake of the Ethiopian crash, some countries and airlines announced they would ground Boeing 737 Max 8 planes.

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In the wake of the Ethiopian crash, some countries and airlines announced they would ground Boeing 737 Max 8 planes.

China and Indonesia were the first countries to do so, almost immediately, while at least 22 airlines around the world made similar announcements.

Max 8 flights grounded, number of B737 Max8s in fleet

  • China Southern Airlines, 22
  • Air China, 15
  • Hainan Airlines, 11
  • Shanghai Airlines, 11
  • Xiamen Airlines, 10
  • Lion Air, 10
  • Shandong Airlines, 7
  • GOL Airlines, 7
  • Shenzhen Airlines, 6
  • SilkAir, 6
  • Aeromexico, 6
  • Aerolineas Argentinas, 5
  • Ethiopian Airlines, 4
  • China Eastern Airlines, 4
  • Lucky Air, 3
  • Cayman Airways, 2
  • ComAir (South Africa), number unknown
  • Okay Airways, number unknown
  • Kunming Airlines, number unknown
  • Australia, unknown

But at least 12 other carriers, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines continued to fly them Monday, and the Federal Aviation Administration has not ordered their grounding.

To help travelers understand how to determine what plane they are scheduled to fly on, and their rights if they decide they do not want to board a Boeing 737 Max 8, we talked to airlines, passenger-right advocates and airline experts:

When the info is available

For most travelers, the information about their plane type is available at the time of booking, either during the seat-selection process or elsewhere online.

Experienced travelers - and especially those who frequently book longer flights - often head to FlightStats.com or SeatGuru.com, to determine their planes.

Even if passengers determine which type of plane they are booked on, airlines might change planes at the last minute, as required by logistics or a change of weather.

By Monday, some people had taken to Twitter, saying they had canceled flights or calling for all airlines to ground any Boeing 737 Max 8s in their fleets.

Passengers out of luck?

Henrik Zillmer, chief executive of AirHelp, a company that partners with Travelocity to help travelers make claims against airlines, thinks passengers are probably out of luck.

"Travelers can cancel their flights, but would not be eligible to claim compensation if they decide to do so," he said. "They do not have a right to compensation or reimbursement for tickets purchased as it is technically their decision to cancel."

If, however, you are booked on a flight with an airline that has grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, Zillmer believes you will probably be refunded your fare.

"Since this situation would be a result of mechanical issues and therefore the airline's own fault, travelers may be eligible to claim compensation," he said.

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Critically, though, what compensation is due and the laws that protect passengers depend on the departure airport and the home country of the airline.

If you are on a flight in or out of the European Union, or operated by a European Union-based airline, Zillmer notes that EU regulations may entitle you to compensation of up to "$700 per person."

No other option

If you are flying elsewhere in the world, though, you might not have another option; many routes operate on limited timetables, and in some cases, there isn't an option to change to another flight.

Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights, a passenger advocacy group, says even insurance might not help in these circumstances.

"Insurance would probably protect against government or airline action grounding delays, but not passenger election to change flights," he said.

"If your flight is canceled or excessively delayed by the airline, you can get an involuntary refund of what you paid for that flight even if the ticket is labeled nonrefundable," he added.

Julie Loffredi, manager of media relations for InsureMyTrip.com, a travel insurance comparison site, said that "fear" is usually not a good enough reason for insurers to pay compensation to travelers who cancel their flights.

"With traditional, standard travel insurance you wouldn't be able to cancel and get your money back out of fear," she said.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 is pictured outside the factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington. Boeing's stock dropped today after an Ethiopian Airlines flight was the second deadly crash in six months involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 Image Credit: AFP

However, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more flyers have purchased coverage that allows for any cancellation, whatever the reason.

Airlines with this aircraft in their fleet

According to a WAM interview with Bernard J Dunn, president for Boeing Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, in 2018 21 commercial aircraft were delivered to UAE carriers. This delivery included, he said, seven 737 MAXs to flydubai - in addition to six 777s to Emirates, and eight aircraft to Etihad  (which include one 777F, four 787-10s, and three 787-9s).

With 34 planes in operation, Southwest Airlines is the airline with the largest number of Boeing 737 Max 8s in the world. Air Canada and American Airlines each have 24. United Airlines does not operate any Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, but it does fly the 737 Max 9.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration tweeted Sunday that it was "closely monitoring" developments in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, but as of Monday afternoon, the agency had not ordered the grounding of any planes.

Southwest Airlines does not charge change fees, so passengers are easily able to adjust their travel plans if they discover they are booked on a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Southwest. They may, however, need to pay any difference in fare price. American Airlines charges a change fee.

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Cayman Airways in the Cayman Islands has grounded its two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. Ethiopian Airlines has grounded its remaining four. The Civil Aviation Administration of China grounded all 97 of the country's domestic Boeing 737 Max 8s. Indonesia followed suit.

Southwest Airlines representative Brian Parrish said via email that the airline has been in contact with Boeing and is following the investigation. "We remain confident in the safety and airworthiness of our entire fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737 aircraft," he added. "We don't have any changes planned to 737 MAX operations."

A United Airlines representative, Rachael Rivas, clarified that although United does not have any Max 8 planes in its fleet, it does have other planes from the Boeing 737 Max series. "We have made clear that the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is safe and that our pilots are properly trained to fly the MAX aircraft safely," she added.

American Airlines had not responded to a request for comment.

What Airlines Fly the Boeing 737 Max 8

The 737 class is a workhorse for airlines worldwide, and the single-aisle 737 Max has been Boeing's best-selling plane ever. More than 350 of the Max 8 planes are currently registered, and many more are on order.

Max 8 planes flew more than 8,500 flights worldwide in the week beginning Feb. 25, according to Flightradar24, a flight tracking service.

Southwest Airlines - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 34.

Air Canada - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 24.

American Airlines - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 24.

China Southern Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 22.

Norwegian Air - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 18.

Air China - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 15.

TUI fly - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 15.

SpiceJet - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 13.

WestJet - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 13.

Hainan Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 11.

Shanghai Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 11.

FlyDubai - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 11.

Turkish Airlines - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 11.

Xiamen Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 10.

Lion Air - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 10.

Jet Airways - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 9.

Smartwings - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 7.

Shandong Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 7.

GOL Airlines - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 7.

Shenzhen Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 6.

SilkAir - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 6.

Aeromexico - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 6.

Aerolineas Argentinas - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 5.

LOT - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 5.

Oman Air - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 5.

Ethiopian Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 4.

China Eastern Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 4.

Sunwing Airlines - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 4.

Lucky Air - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 3.

Air Italy - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 3.

Icelandair - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 3.

Cayman Airways - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Eastar Jet - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Fiji Airways - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Fuzhou Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Kunming Airlines - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Okay Airways - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

S7 Airlines - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Enter Air - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

Royal Air Maroc - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 2.

9 Air -Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.

Garuda Indonesia - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.

Comair - Status: Grounded. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.

Mauritania Airlines - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.

MIAT Mongolian Airlines - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.

Corendon Airlines - Status: Unknown. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.

SCAT - Status: In use. Number of 737 Max 8s in fleet: 1.