United Airlines is hoping for an excellent Christmas gift. The Boeing 737 MAX, grounded for almost six months, is causing some scheduling problems for the airline. Now, United has moved the reentry date for the aircraft from November to December 19th, 2019.
Delayed return to service
Flight Global reports that United is now setting the reentry date for the 737 MAX as December 19th, 2019. This date is near the start of the winter holidays. As such, the airline is anticipating having a full fleet of 737 MAX available to minimize cancellations.
This extension will add an additional 4,500 flight cancellations across the six weeks. The majority of those cancellations, about 2,800, will occur in November. United Airlines confirmed to Simple Flying the cancellation of 4,500 additional flights across November and December.
Recently, United flew 737 MAX aircraft to the desert for storage. All 14 of the airline’s 737 MAX 9 are out of service and parked up. United is not the only airline to store these aircraft in the desert. Indeed, desert environments are better for storing planes, and it also means fewer aircraft taking up spaces in maintenance hangars or on airport aprons at their hubs.
For passengers scheduled on 737 MAX aircraft, United has said the following:
We are continuing to work through the schedule to try and swap and upgauge aircraft to mitigate the disruption caused by the grounding of the MAX. We continue to automatically book affected customers on alternate flights. If we are unable to place them on a different flight, we will proactively reach out to try and offer other options.
When will the 737 MAX return?
Fellow United States carriers American and Southwest have different dates for the 737 MAX return. American Airlines has the 737 MAX scheduled for return in November. And, Southwest Airlines has pushed it even further than United to January of 2020. Clearly, there is still much uncertainty as to when the aircraft will return.
Numerous factors have to come together for both the airlines and for Boeing. For one, regulatory agencies will have a major factor in the time they take to review and to test Boeing’s updates on the aircraft. Meanwhile, the work necessary for returning the 737 MAX to service may take airlines some time. If the FAA and other regulatory agencies do not certify the aircraft by November, it creates a tight schedule for the 737 MAX to return for flight in December.
What is happening at United?
Other aircraft will likely cover for United’s gap in service due to the removal of the 737 MAX from schedules through December. Although, this does still cause a bit of a scheduling headache for United at a time when they are expanding services across the globe.
The narrowbody aircraft can help connect passengers to United’s hubs and fill their planes. And, the 737 MAX offers better fuel efficiency for airlines which reduces operating costs.
With the 737 MAX are out of service, United has not announced their repainting in a brand new livery. Repainting these planes would make sense since the aircraft is not flying and thus will not have to be temporarily withdrawn from passenger service. Then again, these are brand new aircraft and such a repainting would be another cost for the airline. They are, however, considering an upgrade to the passenger experience of some aircraft.
For now, the aviation world waits to see when the 737 MAX will return to service. How passengers react, however, is unclear. It seems that airlines are still betting on the aircraft since most airlines with large 737 MAX orders have not replaced their orders with competitor aircraft.
Are you going to fly a United 737 MAX when it returns to service? Or will you avoid the 737 MAX entirely? When do you think the 737 MAX will return to service? Share your thoughts in the comments!