In yet another bad week for Boeing, the manufacturer has now admitted it doesn’t expect to have certification for its 737 MAX until at least the middle of this year. The result of this further setback means that airlines are having to come up with contingency plans. Several airlines have now released official reactions to the lengthened grounding, so who has already reacted and what can we expect over the coming weeks?
The new announcement from Boeing this week has put an end to hopes that the troubled 737 MAX would be back in the sky by March. In an official press statement yesterday, Boeing confirmed that “we are currently estimating that the ungrounding of the 737 MAX will begin during mid-2020”. This is the first official press statement regarding the MAX under new CEO David Calhoun and is the sixth extension since the groundings in March 2019.
This means airlines who were relying on the MAX to cover new routes at the start of the summer season will have to compromise and find alternative aircraft or adapt schedules. Several airlines have released statements in response to Boeing including Icelandair, Air Canada and flydubai.
Icelandair released a short statement which clearly shows they had expected further delays. The statement confirms that the airline does not plan to operate the MAX during the summer high season and that this has been the plan for a while. Icelandair’s press release states that the extended grounding “will have a minimal impact on Icelandair’s flight schedule 2020 as it was set up with the aim to minimize the impact of a possible further delay”.
The airline is covering routes using three leased Boeing 737-800s. It will also keep more Boeing 757s in operation over this year rather than retiring them.
Flydubai had the second largest order of MAX jets of any airline. Although it had only received a few of the 250 it is due, the airline had leased aircraft to cover the grounded jets. However, it is now looking at having to lease more jets to cover routes into the summer season. Unlike Icelandair, the airline has said the financial impact will continue to grow. It’s fairly common knowledge that the airline is looking to replace its Boeing order with Airbus A320s.
Air Canada has also released a statement in response to Boeing. The airline has said it has fully removed the plane from schedules until 30 June. The reasons it gave were to help clarify customer bookings and to effectively manage its fleet. It has 24 grounded 737 MAX aircraft and has had to extend leases on several aircraft to help manage the impact of the groundings.
Although Boeing only released its new estimate this week, American Airlines beat them to the punch and announced in an update last week that it doesn’t expect to be using its MAX until after 4 June. This is one of the earliest dates an airline has announced but after Boeing’s new announcement, they may update this statement. The airline has confirmed that due to the MAX being out of service, it will have to cancel 140 flights per day until the aircraft is back in the air. No wonder they are hoping for an early June certification.
Like American Airlines, Southwest has opted for a hopeful return to service in early June; the 6 June to be precise. This is again because the airline has confirmed that it has to cancel 175 flights a-day until the MAX is back. The airline said,
“By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our customers’ travel plans”.
While comparing which airlines had reacted to Boeing’s statement this week, it became very clear that most airlines don’t seem surprised by the extension. Not only have we had several extensions before, but airlines just don’t seem to trust Boeing when they have previously announced dates for ungrounding the aircraft.
While some airlines remain hopeful citing early summer dates for the MAX’s return, many have stopped giving exact dates. Icelandair simply said “summer”. Some airlines have even added sections to their websites for updates relating to the MAX. News about the MAX is clearly not going away.
So, while airlines are reacting to Boeing’s announcement this week, it seems as though the reactions don’t have much hope or excitement behind them. Most airlines don’t seem to believe Boeing when they give a date. Everyone is more concerned with finding ways to replace the MAX than the idea that it could be back in the sky in just a few months.