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.

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. 

Video of the day:

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!

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Is this the longest grounding of an aircraft type ever? I read that all DC-10’s were grounded for a while at the end of the 1970s. And they eventually went on to fly. I wonder if the 737 MAX will survive this major scandal and grounding.

L Hodgson

The DC10 was grounded until design flaws were corrected. But I think many early 10 s flew safely at that time, eg with Laker Skytrain’s aircraft logging high flying hours, and the type went on to provide excellent service, most accidents were due to factors other than the design itself, I believe, and the design formed the basis of the MD11. Many 10s are still flying today. So it is most likely that the MAX will recover eventually, but who knows if the flying public and pilots will trust it?


5 months ago boing were saying they were ready to submit its final software fix for certification. What went wrong? Does anybody know? Clearly there is more going on than we are all privvy to.


Wonder if the FAA is under such extreme international scrutiny for their half a job of certifying the 737 MAX to begin with that they since haven’t met the international regulators requirements for re-certification that they are having to grow a backbone with Boeing to get the airplane safe before it is re-certified. Ultimately when the next 737 MAX accident happens (whether or not it is pilot error) the planes credibility may not recover — like the DC10 years ago). There just has to be so much more going on behind the scene.

Warren Heller

Is not a possibility that the arguements about design flaws making it unstable are correct and it is permanently grounded or needs total redesign, good possibility? Not the fist time it ever happened, B 47 bomber was. 10% of all produced crashed.


You make an Interesting point about the B47 – but it dated back to a time when far less was known about turbojet propulsion. It was the military equivalent of the DH Comet. No such excuse with the MAX !


I have little sympathy for Southwest since they were part of the environment that led Boeing to rehash a 1960s designed aircraft for yet another time instead of doing a clean sheet narrowbody aircraft. Southwest has stubbornly refused to operate anything beyond the 737. The 717s from AirTran could have helped open up routes too big with the 737, but they’re now being useful for Delta.

As other articles have shown, I think Southwest will eventually be forced to bring in the A220 or A320neo on board.

Warren Heller

this aerodynamically poorly designed, “fatally flawed” plane must never be allowed to keep killing, hundreds at a time. GROUND IT PERMANENTLY ONCE AND FOREVER before more die.
put that damnable dennis the menace muilenburg where he belongs making license plates in the prison. his hencemen must go too and now before they destroy evidence. arrest them all now.
stop adolf’s [dennis] $ 12,000.00 per hour salary now paid for his excellent [sic] leadership.


You get the impression that when Boeing asserts the MAX will be back in service in the last quarter of 2019, that the assertion is not based on anything material at all. It seems it is purely there to hurry regulators and to sell the notion to pilots and travellers that the fix for the MAX is 100% tried, tested and complete.


This long grounding could probably have been avoided, had Boeing not tried to control events after having been caught out trying to support the flying of an airplane that should never really have received certification with the original configuration of MCAS. The way Boeing has conducted itself in this case has severely damaged the reputation of Boeing for a very long time. Boeing used to be an engineer’s company. It would seem that with the takeover of Mcdonnell Douglas, Boeing changed from being an engineer’s company to be a company run by bean counters. The current Boeing CEO is a… Read more »


The MAX grounding could be lifted if the FAA and other world regulators can unequivocally agree that it is 100% safe to do so. As things stand it seems other world regulators at least aren’t so sure. I don’t even think Boeing has submitted a final fix proposal yet, so how can anybody be sure anyway? In this case it is, as it should be, incumbent upon Boeing and the FAA to show other world regulators that the MAX is worthy for the grounding to be lifted. The FAA would appear to be less stringent on safety if they allowed… Read more »