Southwest Airlines has shared how it is looking to enter the Boeing 737 MAX back into its operations. With the aircraft type being reported to get the all-clear from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the next few months, the carrier is preparing the process for its return.
It is speculated that Boeing won’t be able to complete the regulatory process of the grounded airliner till February. Meanwhile, Southwest has given itself around a month to get the aircraft going after it is approved. Therefore, we could be seeing MAXs with the airline’s livery in the sky during March.
Bloomberg reports on an interview that it had with Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van de Ven. The pair announced how their company plans to return their 737 MAX aircraft into service.
In the first instance, once the plane is approved, the carrier will get information on the updates required regarding the flight-system software before implementing the relevant changes.
Thereafter, it will incorporate any needed pilot-training requirements into flight manuals. It has agreed on a training timeline of 30 days with its pilots’ union. This will allow for familiarization with the updated software. Additionally, the firm will wait until all of its 9,700 pilots are trained before taking the MAX back to the skies.
Plenty of checks
As the largest operator of the jet, Southwest has had amounting damages impacting its operations. Before the grounding, the airline received 34 MAX planes, with three of these on lease. These units are set to be shifted from their temporary home in Victorville, California and join Southwest’s extra 41 jets that it initially expected before the end of this year.
This is a total of 75 planes that it will have to get ready during the next year. Southwest states that these will all need maintenance, new software installation, and rigorous preparation. Each plane will go through FAA-approved inspections before being cleared to operate passenger services.
The airline will also conduct various test flights before flying any customers on the aircraft. These preliminary operations will have company executives, federal regulators, and journalists onboard. Southwest feels that it will have around 30 737 MAXs ready to fly before conducting its first passenger service.
Tending to concerns
Two fatal accidents spurred the grounding of the jet. Therefore, it is understandable that there would be plenty of customers and employees that have safety concerns ahead of boarding the MAX once reintroduced. Therefore, company executives have collaborated with Boeing, regulators, and pilots on reassurance communications.
Nonetheless, Southwest states that its research displays that the vast majority of its customers will fly on the aircraft as soon as its back in action. Furthermore, the company says that it will use social media, digital communication, and TV commercials to inform the 10 percent that will avoid the jet at first about “Southwest competence”.
A clear approach
Southwest seems to have found a balance of how to respond to the MAX crisis. It recently shared that it will be distributing $125 million of its compensation from Boeing with its employees.
It also recognizes that extra caution with its passengers is needed when returning the plane to service. On the other hand, companies such as Ryanair have gone with a slightly different approach. The Irish carrier has shown reluctance to place new customer service measures within its company when operating the aircraft.
Simple Flying reached out to Southwest Airlines for further comment on its plans for the return of the 737 MAX. We will update the article with any further announcements
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