US Airlines Extend Boeing 737 MAX Grounding To 1 Year

Southwest Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the world, has today made a bold move. They are the first airline in the world to ground the Boeing 737 MAX until March 2020– one year after the type was first grounded. Then, American Airlines followed suit.

Boeing 737 MAX Southwest
Southwest Airlines is now the first airline to officially ground the 737 MAX for one year. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest grounds the Boeing 737 MAX until March

Reuters reports that Southwest Airlines is pulling the 737 MAX from schedules until March 2020. Back in March 2019, the 737 MAX faced a worldwide grounding after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Since then, major scrutiny has revealed issues with the 737 MAX and diminished the credibility of both Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Southwest 737 MAX
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019. Photo: Southwest Airlines

March 2020 will mark one year from the start of the 737 MAX grounding. More importantly, this makes Southwest Airlines the first airline to remove the aircraft from schedules for a year.


However, there is something to note about this. Although Southwest Airlines is pulling the type from service through to that date, it does not mean that regulatory agencies will not certify the type before then. Rather, this instead gives Southwest Airlines some breathing room to take the necessary measures for the safe return of the type to passenger service.

Southwest 737 MAX
Southwest will need time to return the type to service. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines provided Simple Flying the following statement:

Based on continued uncertainty around the timing of MAX return to service, the Company soon plans to proactively remove the MAX from its flight schedule through March 6, 2020.


CEO Gary Kelly added the following at an earnings call on October 24th:

So along the way between now and mid-December, if we judge that that date won’t be met, we’ll roll our schedule yet again. So recall that our second quarter assumption was that Boeing delivered by the end of September, so we’re about three to four weeks behind that, which is why we’ve moved from what was a January 6 date to February 8.
So the closer we get, the more confident I am. However, I am still not highly confident about mid-December. I think Ryan has already made that clear. But what’s important, of course, 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.

Southwest and the 737 MAX

Only Boeing 737 family aircraft make up Southwest’s fleet. And, amid this grounding, reports have been swirling about whether or not Southwest could introduce Airbus aircraft into its fleet. For now, however, Southwest has not placed any firm orders.

Such a change would be huge for Southwest. The airline is well-known for standardization including exclusively flying 737-family aircraft and only offering economy class onboard all its aircraft.

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX interior
Southwest Airlines operates all of its 737s in an all-economy configuration. Photo: Southwest Airlines

American Airlines follows suit

In a press release, American Airlines announced that they were extending their own grounding of the 737 MAX until March 2020. This leaves United Airlines as the only major carrier still retaining the 737 MAX in schedules prior to March 2020.

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
American Airlines is removing the 737 MAX from schedules until March of 2020. Photo: Nathan Coats via Flickr

The 737 MAX is undergoing intense scrutiny

Various regulators around the world have trained their focus on the aircraft. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the FAA recently asked Boeing to alter some of their documentation regarding the software fix. Notably, while the EASA has expressed some confidence in regards to when the 737 MAX could fly again, the FAA has been quite tight-lipped.

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX interior
Southwest has to wait for regulators to approve the 737 MAX for passenger service. Photo: Southwest Airlines

This uncertainty has led to Southwest’s decision to pull the type from service until March. As the world’s largest customer for the 737 MAX, this is a huge sign. Removing the aircraft from schedules for a longer period of time increases costs for Southwest and also puts a strain on their operations.

However, it seems the carrier is taking the “better safe than sorry” path and pulling the aircraft from service for a longer period of time in order to restore certainty to their operations.

Southwest 737 MAX
As the world’s largest 737 MAX customer, Southwest’s move is a big one. Photo: Southwest Airlines

What do you think about the situation with the 737 MAX? Is Southwest Airlines making the right move? Let us know in the comments!


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David C

Is it time to rethink your exclusive relationship with Boeing? Maybe start seeing other aircraft? At the very least, the relationship needs some couples therapy…..


yeah i think your a very right


This is probably the point at which Michael O’Leary (Ryanair) is going to EXPLODE in fury.
I hope he bites the bullet and switches to Airbus; he probably sees at this stage that he’s never going to get his MAXs…

David C

He doesn’t fly MAX aircraft.. His are 737-8200’s LOL!!! 🙂


What a fiasco! So many dead, so much money lost, so much respect and prestige given away by Boeing. For what? Decades from now this will still be the subject of case study review of how to seriously cock up product development, management decision making, crisis management and a company reputation.


Dennis Muilenburg should do the right thing and step down – in memory of the 346 souls that perished. It won’t happen i know . He gives of shades of being a psychopath – meaning he cannot feel empathy!


It would be much better if he got sent to jail for a LONG time…

Greg Hiller

I feel that the situation with this aircraft type is not positive at all; and can never be so. When it was found to be impossible to mount the required more economical engines in the correct position, and the choice was made to go ahead anyway and choose a new fitting location, an aeroplane resulted that was not airworthy. The software, which caused the two fatal air disasters (I won’t call them accidents), will extremely unlikely have been made exclusively to push the nose down because the engines in the new position, especially on full thrust, push the nose up:… Read more »


I think you are 100% correct


So Bloomberg is reporting that there was a near crash in the sim, which is where this latest delay all began:

“Boeing Co. engineers were nearly done redesigning software on the grounded 737 Max in June when some pilots hopped into a simulator to test a few things.

It didn’t go well.

A simulated computer glitch caused it to to dive aggressively in a way that resembled the problem that had caused deadly crashes off Indonesia and in Ethiopia months earlier.”

David C

The Bloomberg report is referencing a simulator event in June that caused it… But still, if it was a simple issue to solve, the airframe would have been back in service by now. Even with EASA doing a separate re-certification, if it was solvable quickly it would have been. I wonder if there is going to have to be a hardware upgrade as well to handle the new software and loading. Curious times.


You think that this is perhaps related to the docs issue? If Boeing puts out exactly what is going on in the submitted papers, regulators will look at it and say it’s no good, you gotta change some hardware?


Or maybe the unprotected rudder cable, which was the subject of the FlightGlobal article yesterday?

David C

My personal opinion (and again, this is personal) is that the inclusion of the second AOA sensor (which was an option prior to the two tragedies) and the additional code required to both process that data and also correct the tendency to pitch up during climb is too much for the hardware to handle. Normal operations, not a problem. Once they start applying new variables or failures to the SIM, it causes a lag or a fail of the processing operation. If this was strictly a software patch (and revision of training modules), this would have been at re-certification phase… Read more »


It just goes to show that Boeing has been keeping airlines on a leash all along…it seemingly couldn’t give a toss about its customers.
What a crowd of incompetent losers! They keep telling us it’s a simple fix, and they keep getting egg on their faces…time and time again! They seem to have COMPLETELY lost the ability to do even BASIC engineering.


I think at this stage, with all that’s going on at Boeing, that we realistically have to start asking when Boeing is going to fall into the Chapter 11 pit…


Probably not – the US government keeps them afloat with military contracts. You know, the same ones that the inspector general said Boeing grossly overcharged them for. It’s easy to make up any losses when the customer gives you a blank check…


That’s a good point. Although Uncle Sam isn’t too happy with the crappy quality of the KC-46…

Jim P

There has been so very much bad publicity about this aircraft, I don’t see a clear path to introducing the MAX in a way that the flying public will buy. Boeing has tried to cut so many corners that MAX is not the only a/c in trouble. The launch of the 777X has been pushed back again. In fact it was pushed back twice in just a matter of days. Singapore airlines now says launch date is in 2022! I am a retired AA flight attendant. There was a time when I trusted the work of Boeing and the FAA… Read more »

High Mile Club

It would give them enough room to get some planes updated and flight ready before that deadline. I doubt all of them will be ready before then.

Uncle Q

767X, Yes