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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.