Dallas based Southwest Airlines announced Thursday that it is joining American Airlines by extending the suspension of its 737 MAX until early September.
According to a statement posted on Southwest’s website, the airline has removed the 737 MAX from its schedule until at least September 2nd.
“We offer our apologies to our customers impacted by this change, and we thank them for their continued patience,” read the statement.
Southwest Airlines 737 MAX to miss Labor Day weekend
This move will affect 100 flights per day and also encompass the busy Labor Day travel weekend, one of the busiest times of the year for air travel.
By extending the suspension of the 737 MAX, what Southwest Airlines have done, is take away the possibility of the aircraft returning to operations before the end of summer. By assuming that they will not be able to use the grounded plane, Southwest Airlines can now concentrate on their fleet of other 737’s and deploy them accordingly.
Southwest Airlines has a fleet of 34 737 MAX aircraft and is the world’s biggest operator of the type. This move by Southwest follows in the footsteps of American Airlines, after the nation’s largest airline suspended a return to operations of their 24 737 MAX aircraft until sometime in September.
When asked why American Airlines had removed their 737 MAX planes from their schedule, American’s CEO Doug Parker told investors that the aircraft was removed because pilots and cabin crew were getting ready to set up their summer schedules and “we still don’t have certainty as to when the aircraft will be back to service.” according to CNBC.
When will the 737 MAX be allowed to fly again?
Aviation authorities around the world grounded the 737 MAX after two fatal crashes killed a total of 346 people just five months apart.
Upon investigation, the crashes were deemed to be caused by a sensor reporting that the plane was stalling. This then triggers a system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, to kick in and point the aircraft’s nose downward. By doing this the aircraft is supposed to gain speed and avoid stalling.
The MCAS system is not installed on any of Boeing’s other 737 aircraft and was incorporated into the MAX due to its larger engines. In order to fit the new engines on the plane, Boeing had to move them further forward. This then changed the aircraft’s centre of gravity causing the nose to pitch up while the aircraft was climbing. Sensing that the plane was going to stall, the MCAS took over without any input from either pilot.
Currently, Boeing is working on a fix to remedy the situation with the MAX but there is still no definite timeline as to when the plane will be allowed to fly again. At the moment, the FAA is talking about the 737 MAX being back in the air by December, once they have signed off on Boeing’s proposed software fix.
Boeing is doing all they can to restore confidence in the 737 MAX
As things stand at the moment, Boeing will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to get the flying public to travel again on the 737 MAX.
Last month, CNBC carried a story citing a Barclays Investment Bank survey that said that, “If given the choice between a MAX and other aircraft type on otherwise identical flights, 52% would choose the other aircraft type.”
Airlines who have the MAX in their fleets like Southwest and American will, of course, understand the public’s reluctance to get on board a 737 MAX. They may have to heavily discount fares to attract passengers back.