Boeing 737 MAX May Not Fly Until March According To Southwest Pilots

The Boeing 737 MAX is still facing a worldwide grounding. Although many airlines are expecting a return to service in early 2020, some airlines are preparing for an even later entry. Southwest Airlines’ pilots have now stated they believe the 737 MAX may remain grounded through March, 2020.

Boeing 737 MAX May Not Fly Until March According To Southwest Pilots
Pilots of Southwest Airlines are indicating that the 737 MAX may not fly until March, 2020. Photo: Boeing

737 MAX return to service at Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is still maintaining an early 2020 return to service. However, in Skift’s reporting, it is expected to take Southwest anywhere between 45 and 60 days to get the aircraft ready for passenger flights in compliance with FAA directives.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest has a major stake in the 737 MAX. Photo: Southwest Airlines

As part of this timeline, Southwest anticipates the 737 MAX will receive re-approval before the end of November. This will put the 737 MAX on track to return to service by early 2020. However, if there are any delays to the process, it may push the timeline back.

The FAA has not released a steadfast timeline as they are focusing on a thorough review of the aircraft. Needless to say, this review must be thorough in order for worldwide regulatory agencies and carriers to have confidence in the FAA’s safety standards. Numerous other agencies are conducting their own tests on the 737 MAX.

What if the 737 MAX return to service is delayed?

Unlike other airlines, Southwest will be less affected if the worldwide ban is not lifted simultaneously. The 737 MAX could fly on domestic routes while older 737NGs could take on the international routes until global certification.

Nevertheless, even some restored domestic capacity would be a relief on Southwest’s operations. Indeed, having aircraft on reserve and not operating at full capacity gives airlines some breathing room in case of unexpected operational delays or issues. 

Tire Burst Landing
Though Southwest has a sizable number of 737NGs, the 737 MAX could help restore additional capacity across the system. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Southwest employees and compensation

Southwest Airlines is definitely seeking compensation amid the worldwide grounding of the type. With a sizable number of aircraft unable to fly, their operations are definitely taking a hit. And, other carriers have also received compensation offers or negotiations amid these groundings. However, unlike other carriers, Southwest is signaling that its employees could receive a part of that compensation.

Southwest 737
Southwest employees could see compensation amid the 737 MAX groundings. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Indeed, for the flight crew and cabin crew, there are fewer flights they can operate. As a result, there is a little less to go around in terms of flight schedules and aircraft variations.


MAX Landing
Boeing is hoping for a sooner rather than later return for the 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

Though this is by no means definitive, it is noteworthy that Southwest pilots are planning for a longer grounding than anticipated. Only the FAA and regulatory agencies will be able to definitively offer a more concrete timeline for return to service. Although, there are plenty of variables still in play.

When do you think the 737 MAX will return to service? Let us know in the comments!