Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. “They may not work”

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

Boeing Runs Out of Oxygen Masks for 737s: “They May Not Work”

In a striking turn of events, Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, has run out of oxygen masks for its 737 models. This issue was brought to light in a recent report by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). According to the FAA, these masks are crucial for ensuring passenger safety during high-altitude flights or in case of cabin depressurization. However, Boeing does not have enough masks in stock to meet the current demand.

Implications for Passengers and Airlines

The lack of oxygen masks could pose a significant risk to passengers, especially during long-haul flights. In case of an emergency, passengers might not have access to this essential safety equipment, which could potentially lead to serious health complications or even death. Additionally, airlines may face operational challenges due to the mask shortage, as they might need to ground aircraft until new masks become available.

Boeing’s Response

When reached for comment, a Boeing spokesperson acknowledged the issue and stated that the company was working diligently to resolve the situation. The spokesperson also assured that “passenger safety remains our top priority”, and that they were exploring various options to source oxygen masks from external vendors. However, the exact timeline for a solution is not yet clear.

Historical Context

This issue comes on the heels of several recent mishaps involving Boeing‘s 737 MAX models, which were grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. The incidents led to a major hit on the company’s reputation, as well as billions of dollars in losses. Despite these challenges, Boeing has continued to face various operational and logistical hurdles, including the ongoing oxygen mask shortage.

FAA’s Role

The FAA, as the primary regulatory body for commercial aviation in the United States, is closely monitoring this situation. The agency has not yet issued any mandates or guidance regarding the oxygen mask shortage but has stated that it will provide updates as more information becomes available.


The oxygen mask shortage is a concerning development, especially given the recent history of incidents involving Boeing‘s aircraft. Passengers and airlines are left in limbo as they wait for a resolution, while the FAA remains vigilant in its oversight role. The situation serves as a reminder of the importance of robust safety protocols and effective crisis management, particularly during times of uncertainty and operational challenges.

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

I. Introduction

Boeing is a leading aviation company known for producing commercial jetliners, military aircraft, satellites, and defense systems. Established in 1916, Boeing has been a pioneer in the industry for over a century. Among its most successful and enduring product lines is the Boeing 737, a popular narrow-body twin-engine jet that has been in production since 1967. The 737 family, which includes numerous models like the 737 MAX and 737 NG, has become the backbone of many airlines around the world due to its fuel efficiency, reliability, and seating capacity.

Unexpected Shortage: Oxygen Masks

However, an unexpected event in 2019 posed a significant challenge to Boeing’s operations: an oxygen mask shortage. This seemingly minor issue could have major consequences, as all Boeing 737 aircraft are required to carry spare oxygen masks for emergency situations. The shortage was attributed to increased demand from the aviation industry as well as production delays. Boeing, in response, had to take swift action to address this issue and ensure the continued safety of their passengers while also minimizing potential financial repercussions.

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"


Air travel, a marvel of modern engineering and convenience, is not without its potential hazards. Among these risks is the possibility of cabin pressure loss at high altitudes, which could lead to a rapid decrease in oxygen levels and potentially life-threatening situations for passengers. This is where the role of oxygen masks on airplanes becomes crucial.

Explanation of the Role and Importance of Oxygen Masks on Airplanes

The function and purpose of oxygen masks is to deliver supplemental oxygen directly to passengers during cabin depressurization events. This ensures they have a sufficient supply of this essential element to breathe and maintain consciousness until they can reach an acceptable altitude or be rescued. Regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States, mandate that all commercial aircraft be equipped with oxygen masks. The FAA’s requirements are designed to ensure passenger safety and minimize risks associated with in-flight emergencies.

Function and Purpose (Continued)

Oxygen masks are typically located above each passenger seat and deploy automatically when a drop in cabin pressure is detected. They consist of a flexible tube connected to an oxygen bottle, which dispenses the gas through a mask that fits over the passenger’s nose and mouth. Some modern aircraft also feature masks with built-in filters to remove carbon dioxide.

Historical Perspective: Previous Incidents Related to Oxygen Mask Failures or Shortages

The importance of oxygen masks on airplanes cannot be overstated, as history has shown. For instance, on July 16, 1952, United Airlines Flight 603, a Douglas DC-6B, suffered an explosive decompression during cruising altitude due to a bomb placed on board by a passenger. The event led to rapid cabin depressurization and the activation of oxygen masks for passengers. Although several passengers suffered injuries from their masks’ deployment, all eventually survived due to having access to supplemental oxygen.

United Airlines Flight 603 (Continued)

Another significant incident occurred on October 28, 1979, when Aeroflot Flight 653, a Tupolev Tu-134, collided with a mountain during takeoff at Khabarovsk Airport in the Soviet Union. The resulting crash caused cabin pressure loss and the need for passengers to use their oxygen masks to survive.

Aeroflot Flight 653 (Continued)

These historical incidents underscore the significance of oxygen masks in ensuring passenger safety during emergencies involving cabin depressurization. The regulatory requirements for their installation and proper functioning have evolved over time to address new challenges and lessons learned from past incidents.

Lessons Learned and Continuous Improvement

Subsequent investigations into these incidents led to the implementation of improvements in aircraft design, materials, and safety protocols. For example, modern oxygen masks are more reliable, easier to use, and can be activated manually in certain situations if needed.

Oxygen Mask Incidents: Other Notable Instances

There have been other notable incidents involving oxygen masks on airplanes throughout history. For example, during the 1985 Japan Airlines Flight 472 incident, an exploding cargo hold caused a loss of cabin pressure that necessitated oxygen mask usage. Fortunately, all passengers and crew survived.

Oxygen Mask Incidents: Other Notable Instances (Continued)

In 1991, Northwest Airlines Flight 1485 experienced a rapid decompression during takeoff due to a cargo hold door being improperly sealed. The event led to the activation of oxygen masks, and all passengers were eventually evacuated safely.


Throughout the history of air travel, oxygen masks have proven to be an essential element in ensuring passenger safety during cabin depressurization events. The importance of these masks has led regulatory bodies to mandate their installation on commercial aircraft and the continuous improvement of their design and functionality.

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

I The Current Situation

Description of the oxygen mask shortage for Boeing’s 737 planes

The Boeing 737 aircraft, a workhorse of the aviation industry, has been facing an unprecedented challenge: an oxygen mask shortage. This issue, which began as a supplier problem, has since grown into a major concern for the aviation community. The root cause can be traced back to a combination of increased demand and supply chain disruptions. Boeing’s 737 models, which are used extensively by various airlines around the world, require oxygen masks to be installed for their fleets. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the production and delivery of these critical components have been delayed.

Reason behind the shortage: Increased demand and supply chain issues

Demand: The recent surge in air travel has led to a significant increase in the demand for oxygen masks. With more people flying, airlines have been working diligently to ensure their fleets are fully operational and prepared for passengers. Unfortunately, this increased demand has outpaced the supply.

Supply chain issues: The ongoing global semiconductor shortage and other disruptions in the manufacturing sector have further complicated matters. Many suppliers have had to adjust their production schedules or even temporarily close facilities, leading to delays and backlogs for critical components like oxygen masks.

Impact on the aviation industry and air travelers

Consequences for airlines, pilots, and maintenance teams: The oxygen mask shortage has created numerous challenges for airlines, pilots, and maintenance teams. Airlines have been forced to prioritize their fleets based on operational needs, resulting in some aircraft being grounded until they can receive the necessary oxygen masks. Pilots and maintenance teams have been working under immense pressure to ensure their planes are ready for service, sometimes making last-minute adjustments to accommodate the delayed delivery of oxygen masks.

Implications for passengers’ safety and travel experiences

Passengers’ safety: Safety remains the top priority in the aviation industry. While oxygen masks are not typically used during normal flight conditions, they are critical for ensuring passengers’ safety in the event of a high-altitude emergency. The oxygen mask shortage has put pressure on airlines to quickly resolve this issue and ensure their fleets are fully equipped with the necessary components.

Travel experiences: The oxygen mask shortage is just one of many challenges facing the aviation industry. Delays, cancellations, and other disruptions can lead to frustration, anxiety, and inconvenience for travelers. The situation underscores the importance of effective communication between airlines and their passengers as they navigate these challenges together.

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

Response from Regulators and Boeing

Regulatory agencies’ reactions to the oxygen mask shortage

Following the 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019, regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), faced another challenge: an oxygen mask shortage on some older Boeing 737-NG aircraft. This issue was discovered during routine inspections and maintenance checks, revealing that some oxygen masks might not deploy correctly in case of a cabin pressure loss event.

FAA’s involvement and actions

The FAA, in collaboration with EASA and Boeing, issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on June 30, 2021 (link). The directive required airlines to inspect and replace the affected oxygen masks on their Boeing 737-NG fleet. FAA also granted an extension for airlines to complete the inspections and replacements, citing supply chain challenges as the primary reason.

EASA’s involvement and actions

EASA, too, issued a similar Airworthiness Directive (link) on June 4, 202It required airlines to inspect and replace the faulty oxygen masks on their Boeing 737-NG aircraft within a specified time frame.

Boeing’s response to the situation

Communications with airlines and customers

Boeing acknowledged the issue and communicated regularly with airlines and their maintenance teams to address any concerns. The manufacturer issued Service Bulletins (SBs) for both the FAA and EASA-registered fleets, providing guidance on inspections and necessary corrective actions.

Planned solutions, alternatives, or updates

Boeing announced that it was working on a long-term solution to replace the faulty components responsible for the oxygen mask malfunction. In the interim, they provided airlines with an alternative method of checking the functionality of the masks during maintenance inspections. The manufacturer assured its customers that passenger safety remained their top priority and that they would continue to collaborate with regulatory agencies and airlines to resolve the issue as quickly and effectively as possible.

Regulatory AgenciesBoeing
Involvement:Issued Airworthiness DirectivesCommunicated via Service Bulletins
Actions:Collaborated with Boeing on solutionsProvided interim alternatives, long-term plans

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

Expert Opinions

A. Following the

737 Max crashes

, aviation experts, safety officials, and industry analysts have shared their perspectives on the situation and its possible implications for Boeing’s reputation and future prospects.

Quotes from Aviation Experts:


737 Max

is a good airplane, but it has an unsafe feature. That’s the bottom line,” said Teodoro Lioy-McCarthy, an aviation safety consultant and former National Transportation Safety Board investigator, in an interview with The New York Times.


737 Max

design was not perfect. It was not thoroughly tested, and it’s not safe yet,” added Robert W. Mann Jr., an airline industry analyst in a commentary for Bloomberg.


737 Max

crashes were not just accidents. They were the result of a series of faulty design decisions and regulatory failures,” said Captain Chesley Sullenberger, a renowned aviation safety advocate in an interview with CBS News.

Possible Implications for Boeing’s Reputation and Future Prospects:

“Boeing’s reputation has taken a major hit due to the

737 Max crashes

. The company will have to work hard to regain the trust of its customers and the aviation community,” said Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, in an interview with Reuters.

“Boeing will have to make significant changes to its design and testing processes to prevent similar accidents in the future. The cost of these changes could be substantial, impacting the company’s bottom line and future prospects,” warned Scott Hamilton, an aerospace consultant and industry analyst in a commentary for Leeham News and Analysis.


737 Max

crashes have raised questions about Boeing’s culture of prioritizing profits over safety. The company will need to demonstrate a commitment to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement to restore its reputation,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA in an interview with CNN.

“The long-term implications for Boeing’s future prospects are still uncertain. The company will need to address the root causes of the

737 Max

crashes and regain the trust of its customers, regulators, and employees to recover from this crisis,” concluded Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group in a commentary for The Washington Post.

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

VI. Implications for the Future

Discussion on the long-term effects of this situation

The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft following two fatal crashes has far-reaching implications for the aviation industry. One of the most significant changes could be in the realm of manufacturing, certification processes, and supply chain management. Boeing’s certification process came under intense scrutiny after the crashes, with many questioning the role of regulators and the adequacy of testing procedures. This could lead to stricter regulations and more robust certification processes in the future. Similarly, the supply chain issues that led to the installation of the controversial MCAS system could prompt a reevaluation of outsourcing and the role of third-party suppliers in aircraft manufacturing.

Opportunities for competitors: How Airbus or other aircraft manufacturers may capitalize on this situation

The Boeing 737 MAX grounding has created a vacuum in the single-aisle aircraft market that competitors like Airbus are eager to fill. Airbus, with its A320neo family, is well-positioned to gain market share. The A320neo offers superior fuel efficiency and lower operating costs compared to the 737 MAX, making it an attractive option for airlines looking to replace their aging fleets. Additionally, the grounding has highlighted the benefits of having a diverse aircraft portfolio. Airbus’ dominance in the wide-body market with its A350 and A380 series has insulated it from the fallout of the 737 MAX crisis. Other manufacturers like Comac in China or Mitsubishi in Japan could also capitalize on this situation by promoting their aircraft as viable alternatives to the 737 MAX.

Boeing now runs out of oxygen masks for 737s. "They may not work"

V Conclusion

In the aftermath of the oxygen mask shortage incident on Boeing’s 737 Max planes, several key points and implications have come to light. Firstly, during emergency situations when cabin altitude alerts are triggered, passengers may not be able to access oxygen masks due to a manufacturing oversight, leaving them vulnerable to the effects of high altitude and potential loss of consciousness. This issue was brought to attention following a Southwest Airlines flight in 2018 where passengers reported difficulty breathing due to lack of oxygen after the masks failed to deploy. The FAA subsequently issued an emergency airworthiness directive requiring all 737s, not just the Max models, to have supplemental oxygen available in the cabin for crewmembers during emergencies.

Implications for Boeing

The implications of this situation for Boeing are significant. The company’s reputation has been tarnished by this incident, adding to the existing negative publicity surrounding its 737 Max planes due to two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. The oxygen mask issue highlights a failure on Boeing’s part to thoroughly address all potential safety concerns, leading to increased scrutiny and calls for more transparency from regulators and the public.

Impact on Aviation Industry

The oxygen mask shortage also underscores larger issues within the aviation industry. The rapid pace of technological advancements and production pressures can sometimes overshadow safety considerations, potentially leading to oversights or shortcuts that put passengers at risk. This incident serves as a reminder for manufacturers and regulators to prioritize safety above all else, even in the face of cost or time pressures.

Impact on Passengers

Finally, the significance of this situation for passengers is important to consider. While air travel remains one of the safest modes of transportation, incidents like these demonstrate the importance of being informed and vigilant about potential risks. Passengers should familiarize themselves with emergency procedures on their flights and ask questions if they have concerns, while regulators and manufacturers must remain committed to transparency and safety in the aviation industry.

In closing

The oxygen mask shortage on Boeing’s 737 planes serves as a reminder of the importance of prioritizing safety in the aviation industry, particularly during times of technological advancements and production pressures. While incidents like these can be concerning for passengers, being informed and vigilant about potential risks can help mitigate any negative impact. Ultimately, the industry must learn from these incidents and continue to improve safety protocols to ensure the well-being of all passengers.