Southwest and American 737 MAX flights grounded until March

Author: 
Reuters
ID: 
1573278510398560300
Fri, 2019-11-08 23:26

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON: Southwest Airlines and American Airlines
said on Friday they are extending Boeing 737 MAX cancelations until
early March, just shy of the one-year anniversary of an Ethiopian
Airlines crash of the jet that led to a worldwide grounding.
Southwest and American, the two largest US operators of the
aircraft, have had to scale back growth plans and are together
canceling more than 300 flights a day, taking a hit to profits as
they manage slimmer fleets without the 737 MAX.
Southwest, which has bet its entire growth strategy on Boeing’s
newest single-aisle aircraft, had previously canceled all its 737
MAX flights until Feb. 8 and now expects a return to service on
March 6, though it warned that the timeline could get pushed back
again.
Boeing Co. is facing increasing hurdles in obtaining approval to
return the plane to service before the end of this year as it has
targeted.
American said it planned to resume commercial flights on the 737
MAX on March 5, and expects to run test flights for American team
members and invited guests before that date, once the aircraft is
certified.
United Airlines, the other US 737 MAX operator, had thus far
canceled flights into January, although it may yet have to extend
that time frame.
Reuters reported this week that US and European regulators will
need to return to a Rockwell Collins facility in Iowa to complete
an audit of Boeing’s software documentation after regulators
found gaps and substandard documents. Boeing has confirmed it must
submit revised documentation.
That has thrown into question when Boeing would be able to complete
a certification test flight. The Federal Aviation Administration
has said it would not unground the planes until 30 days after that
flight occurs.
The 737 MAX, Boeing’s best-selling plane, has been grounded since
March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346
people.
Two US officials told Reuters it is extremely unlikely — if not
impossible — that Boeing will be able to win approval to return
flights to service before the end of December.
Just two days ago, American Chief Executive Doug Parker said he was
hopeful that the aircraft would “get certified in the near
future.”
American has estimated that the 737 MAX grounding has cut 2019
earnings by $540 million, while Southwest estimated the total hit
to its earnings between January and September at $435 million.
That toll will only rise the longer the MAX remains parked. Boeing
is discussing compensation with airlines but no agreement has been
reached.
Southwest had 34 MAX jets at the time of the March 13 grounding and
was expecting delivery of another 41 jets this year. It said on
Friday it still hopes to receive seven MAX deliveries in the
current quarter, with the remaining shifting into 2020.
But without clarity on the MAX timeline, Southwest said it could
not update a previous forecast for first-quarter capacity to grow
between 2 percent and 3 percent.

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Source: FS – All-News-Economy
Southwest and American 737 MAX flights grounded until March