REVEALED: Boeing charged airlines extra money for key safety upgrades that were missing on crashed planes
An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight from Los Angeles approaches to land at Reagan National Airport shortly after an announcement was made by the FAA that the planes were being grounded by the United States over safety issues in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The New York Times reports that Boeing has been charging airlines extra money for two important safety upgrades that happened to be missing on two recent Boeing planes that crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

In particular, the Times reports that Boeing charged airlines money for key software upgrades that could have helped pilots avoid deadly plane crashes in those two countries.

"Boeing’s optional safety features, in part, could have helped the pilots detect any erroneous readings," the Times reports. "One of the optional upgrades, the angle of attack indicator, displays the readings of the two sensors. The other, called a disagree light, is activated if those sensors are at odds with one another."

The two airlines involved in the recent Boeing crashes, Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia's Lion Air, skipped these upgrades because they do not have the financial resources enjoyed by major American and European airlines.

In the wake of the crashes, Boeing has announced that it will offer these safety upgrades for free to all of its 737 Max series planes.

Bjorn Fehrm, an analyst at the aviation consultancy Leeham, slammed Boeing for charging extra for these features, which he said caused "almost nothing to install."

"Boeing charges for them because it can," he told the New York Times. "But they’re vital for safety."