United Airlines is set to become the latest airline to bring the grounded Boeing 737 back into service with flights origination at two of the airline’s main hubs in Denver and Houston. In a statement from the Chicago-based carrier issued yesterday, United said that it plans to have the 737 MAX resume flights in February 2021.
The troubled plane, which has been out of service for the past 20 months after two fatal crashes, will begin flying again for United starting February 11. The move to reintroduce the MAX back into service follows a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) in November to permit the plane to fly again following upgrades to the aircraft software and the need for additional pilot training.
There is still work to do
In the statement seen by Simple Flying, United admitted that there was still work to do regarding the MAX flying again after having been grounded following the crash of Lion Air flight 610 on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.
When speaking about the aircraft reintroduction to service, a United spokesperson said, according to FlightGlobal, the following:
“Nothing is more important to United than the safety of our customers and employees. United’s MAX fleet won’t return to service until we have completed more than 1,000 hours of work on every aircraft, including FAA-mandated changes to the flight software, additional pilot training, multiple test flights, and meticulous technical analysis to ensure the planes are ready to fly.”
United added that it would be fully transparent with its customers and will rebook or refund money to any passenger who does not want to fly on the aircraft.
GOL is already flying the MAX again
Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL became the first airline to start flying the Boeing 737 MAX again with an initial flight from its main hub at São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) and Porto Alegre International Airport Salgado Filho (POA) in the south of the country on December 9, 2020.
In the United States, American Airlines will become the first US carrier to bring back the MAX on December 29, with two daily flights between Miami International Airport (MIA) and New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
According to the aviation enthusiast website, Planespotters.net, Southwest Airlines is the largest Boeing 737 MAX operator with 34 737 MAX 8s. American Airlines is next with 28 MAX 8s while United Airlines has 18 Boeing 737 MAX 9s.
Is now the right time?
United and American Airlines plan to reintroduce the MAX when the airline industry is undergoing its worst-ever crisis brought on by the global pandemic. The coronavirus and the accompanying restrictions on travel have had a devastating effect on travel, with airlines grounding planes and laying off staff in an attempt to survive. Now it not only has to convince passengers that it is safe to fly on a MAX but reassure them that they will not catch COVID-19 on their flight as well.
The 737 MAX is a significant aircraft for Boeing, and while we can see why they are eager to recapture the public faith in the plane, is it something airlines need to push while thousands of people are dying from the coronavirus every day?
What do you think about the rush to get the 737 MAX back into service? Please let us know what you think in the comments.