Air Canada has pulled the Boeing 737 MAX from its schedule until February 14, 2020. The airline cites the uncertainty surrounding regulatory approvals for the return to service of the plane as the reason. According to Air Canada, this decision will provide some certainty and stability for the airline over the northern 2019/20 winter.
Air Canada’s new 737 MAX timeframe matches that of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association. Most North American airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines are currently banking on a mid-January 2020 return to service.
Tomi Kilgore, writing in Market Watch, quotes Air Canada’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lucie Guillemette, saying;
“We are taking this prudent step as a result of the ongoing regulatory uncertainty about the timing of the aircraft returning to service. The extension will give us scheduling predictability through the implementation of the first phase of our new reservation system and the required stability as we prepare the second phase of the system roll-out, introducing it into the airport environment.”
Air Canada is seeking certainty and stability
By removing the MAXs from its schedule until February 14, 2020, Air Canada aims to optimize its working fleet over the winter and proactively re-accommodate its passengers who were booked on flights due to be operated by the 737 MAXs.
Air Canada has 24 Boeing 737 MAXs. The airline operated approximately 75 flights a day using the 737 MAX out of a network total approximating 1,600 daily flights – making up less than 6% of total available seats. Between 9,000 and 12,000 passengers would be expected to board those 75 daily MAX flights.
Air Canada notes that a passenger booked on a flight scheduled to be operated by the 737 MAX up to February 14 can make changes to their bookings without incurring fees within three weeks of their travel date.
Air Canada used its 737 MAXs not just on domestic services, but into the United States, down to Mexico, Hawaii, the Carribean, and over to Heathrow from Canada’s eastern seaboard. Clearly, the airline is keen to return the 737 MAX to service as soon as possible. Air Canada notes it will depend on government safety notices being lifted and international regulatory jurisdictions being happy to have the 737 MAX land at their airports.
Boeing remains confident the 737 MAX will return to service sometime this year. But the clock is ticking through 2019. The 737 MAX has been a sorry tale of schedules been canceled to early northern summer 2019, mid-summer, late summer, autumn, and currently most airlines have cleared the aircraft from their schedules up until mid-January 2020.
Now we are seeing the cancellations creep out to the late northern 2019/20 winter and move towards the one year mark. If that happens, it will be an inglorious blot on Boeing’s history. In the meantime, Air Canada is doing its best to work around the problems the 737 MAX grounding is causing.