American Airlines has cancelled their Boeing 737 MAX flights through to December 3, 2019. In a statement yesterday, American Airlines said the cancellations, whilst unfortunate, allowed the airline and its customers to plan ahead with some certainty. It allows the airline to put new aircraft on to routes and re-accommodate passengers whose flights have been affected. The 737 MAX grounding will see approximately 140 American Airlines flights a day cancelled throughout November 2019.
The decision by American Airlines follows a similar decision by United Airlines who have extended their 737 MAX cancellations through to December 19, 2019. Whilst the cancellations don’t extend over Christmas, they do cover the Thanksgiving holiday. As the airlines move into the busy holiday period, cancellations are rising. Until now, American Airlines has cancelled less than 120 flights a day owing to the 737 MAX grounding. Now it is forecasting that cancellation rate to rise.
American Airlines remain optimistic that the 737 MAX will fly this year
The 737 MAX grounding has entered its sixth month. But in a statement American Airlines said,
“American Airlines remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year.”
CNN is reporting that Boeing has told the Federal Aviation Authority its software fix would be ready early next month and it expects swift recertification. However, it will take further time to train pilots and prep the aircraft to fly again.
What happens to affected passengers?
American Airlines will contact passengers who are impacted by yesterday’s decision. Passengers can choose to be rebooked onto another service or receive a full refund. Not all flights that were due to be flown by a 737 MAX were cancelled. American has substituted other aircraft types onto some routes and sectors.
This may lead to flights being cancelled where those flights were not operated by 737 MAXs. This is because the aircraft operating that flight has been moved onto a flight previously due to be operated by a MAX. American Airlines says that by switching planes, they seek to adversely affect the smallest amount of passengers possible.
Selling tickets on flights yet to be cleared to fly
Yesterday’s decision to cancel flights through to December follows reports in August 2019 that airlines such as American and United were selling tickets on flights scheduled to be operated by 737 MAXs, even though the aircraft remained grounded.
The Sunday Times reported that the airlines, and not just the aforementioned two airlines, were taking educated punts on when the 737 MAX would be back up in the air again and facilitating ticket sales for dates after that.
Unfortunately, as the grounding persists, the airlines have had to keep pushing their schedules back, cancelling flights and inconveniencing thousands of passengers who buy the seats.
The FAA won’t be hurried
While the airlines and Boeing seem confident the 737 MAX grounding will be lifted later this year, the Federal Aviation Authority is giving no such guarantees. It is providing no timelines and giving that the US regulator took some flack for its perceived dilatory approach about the MAX earlier this year, one can expect a rigorous assessment of Boeing’s software fix.
No-one; Boeing, airlines, regulators or passengers, want any more problems with the 737 MAX.