Southwest Airlines Revises MAX Return To Service To August

Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the 737 MAX, has revised its expectations to say that it will not include the troubled aircraft in schedules until August. Previously the airline had said it hoped the plane would return by 6 June.

Southwest boeing 737 max grounded getty images
Southwest has extended the cancellation of the 737 MAX until 10 August. Photo: Getty

The continued grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX jet is causing an ongoing issue for several airlines. None more so than Southwest, which has 34 grounded MAX aircraft and 310 on order, making it the operator of the largest fleet of MAX aircraft.

But as the grounding is yet to be lifted, more and more airlines are announcing extended cancellations of the 737 MAX jet in order to confirm flight schedules over the summer. Initially, Southwest offered a more hopeful date than other airlines by saying it expected the jet by 6 June. Now it has been forced to extend this date until the 10 August.

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This change means approximately 371 week-day flights will not operate. This is higher than the 330 weekly flights it will have to cut before 6 June. During the peak summer season, Southwest had expected to operate 4,000 daily flights.

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August return date

Although the MAX has been removed from Southwest’s schedules until August, this does not necessarily mean the jet will definitely be back in the skies then. We may see another extension to the airline’s cancellation.

Boeing is still insisting that the jet will be recertified and ready for service by mid-2020. They have not provided a more accurate date. However, once the jet has been recertified the FAA has said it will check and clear each existing jet before it can fly again.

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Southwest boeing 737 max grounded getty images
Southwest has said it will do its own checks on the MAX before it flies again. Photo: Getty Images

This individual recertification will take time so it is likely that the 34 Southwest 737 MAX will not all return to service at the same time. Southwest also confirmed in December of last year that it will perform its own checks on the aircraft which it has said will take about a month. The airline will also retrain all 9,700 of its pilots before flying the MAX again.

Ongoing issues

Before Southwest can implement its own checks and training on the MAX, the FAA needs to actually approve it. Rumors have been circulating for months about when this may be with early estimates suggesting the MAX would be in the skies in March. This now seems highly unlikely.

The FAA has not provided any comment on when the MAX may be recertified other than to confirm it will be checking each aircraft. Boeing is remaining equally elusive as to when the Max will return.

As time ticks on recertification rumors are almost always coupled with rumors of more issues being found. Just last week, another software issue was reported. Worryingly, this new issue not unrelated to the problems the MAX experienced last year which resulted in two fatal crashes.

Boeing 737 MAX grounding getty images
Many airlines are experiencing scheduling issues due to the MAX grounding. Photo: Getty Images

Continued grounding

Southwest isn’t the only airline experiencing scheduling issues. Once Boeing announced last month that the MAX would not be operational in March, several airlines had to readjust their expectations. Some offered more hopeful outcomes than others.

Icelandair simply stated it did not see the MAX on its schedules at all for the high summer season. Ryanair also said it did not expect to receive the modified, approved aircraft until October. Southwest was among the hopeful airlines with its 6 June date along with American Airlines who stated 4 June. The hope is clearly now fading for both airlines as they have both pushed the expected return date back to August.

Do you think the 737 MAX will be back in the skies by August or will we be seeing yet another delay? Let us know when you think the MAX will return in the comment section.

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Trent

August finally seems reasonable. I bet the day will get tweaked, but one would hope this is the last delay that is in months rather than days or weeks.

jacek

Flying coffin- we don’t need such plane on the sky.

Flyer

I hope this is going well, because the MAX is not so save but It's nice that Southwest trying to get the MAX back to the Airpot

John

Southwest needs to suck it up, publicly admit they were part of the problem and move to bring on new aircraft types.

Anyways, one should avoid flying Southwest anyways. Today, the DOT’s inspector general released a damning report about the lack of a healthy safety culture at WN and their blatant disregard and blasé attitude towards the FAA.

Luke Vader

There is no realistic way Southwest can ditch the 737 MAX. Even if you assume they could somehow walk away from their huge order with Boeing, what would Southwest replace the 737’s with? Southwest has operated and flown 737s for all of its corporate history. All of their pilots are rated to fly 737s and all of their mechanics only have experience servicing 737s. Southwest is committed/stuck to the 737 MAX (for better or worse) for the foreseeable future, period.

JFP

I recently flew Southwest and I was impressed with what I saw in the way of an FA who was ready to defend the flight deck area when a drunk passenger wanting to use the front lav initially ignored her getsuring for him to turn back. She made it clear to him at row six that if he didn’t turn around, this trip would be his last. Kudos to FA’s like her because they’re often under -if not-appreciated.

John

Southwest will need to invest all its money into bringing on AIRBUS A320NEO and A220.

Charles

So who is going to fly on this aircraft? I’m sure as hell not setting foot on one of these, ever.