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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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!