Southwest, American Airlines Extend Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Until Early March
In the latest blow to the Boeing 737 MAX, both Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have extended their cancellations of the troubled planes until at least March.
Southwest pledged to pull the planes from its flight schedule through March 6, while American said it won’t reintroduce the planes until after March 4, according to a representative for Southwest and a statement and FAQ on American's website.
According to the American Airlines statement, Boeing 737 MAX planes were originally scheduled to return in January but now their first commercial flight will be on March 5. Additionally, as March approaches and the carrier reintroduces the plane back into their fleet, other non-Boeing trips may be adjusted. Refunds will be provided for passengers who do not want to fly on a Boeing 737 MAX.
So far, Southwest has had to cancel thousands of flights as it had heavily invested in the Boeing 737 MAX, according to CNBC, with 34 in its fleet and at least 200 on order at the time of the grounding.
A spokeswoman for Southwest referred to previous comments the airline’s CEO, Gary Kelly, made in which he said that one of the most important things “is that we give the FAA the time that they need to do their job, which I know they will. And of course we're here to support them every way that we can.”
The move follows a pledge by airline executives last week to fly demonstration flights in an effort to prove the planes are safe once federal regulators certify they can resume service.
The 737 MAX planes have been grounded since mid-March of 2019 after a pair of fatal crashes killed 346 people: First, a Lion Air jet crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 people on board. Then in March, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing 157 people.
The extension of the grounding comes as Boeing has said it hopes to start delivering the aircraft to airlines before the end of the year, regardless of if federal regulators have approved pilot training for it, The Wall Street Journal reported. Boeing is running out of space to store the planes it is producing — at a rate of 42 per month — as the grounding drags on.
“Subject to strict regulatory approval, we continue to complete key milestones that put us on a path to certification of the MAX in December, with training approved in January, paving the way for the safe return of the MAX to commercial service,” a Boeing spokesman told the paper.
United Airlines also followed suit by grounding its use of Boeing 737 aircraft until March.