When Will United Airlines Resume 737 MAX Flights?

Chicago-headquartered United Airlines has said that it will begin flying the Boeing 737 MAX again in the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, rival American Airlines says it will resume non-passenger flights in early December and then aircraft carrying passengers later in the month. American said it would operate two flights a day (one roundtrip) with a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft between Miami and New York.

United to return the MAX to service in the first quarter of 2021. Photo: United Airlines

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to return to service after being grounded for 20 months, the most prolonged grounding in commercial aviation history. Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest operator of the 737 MAX, said in October that it does not plan to resume Boeing 737 MAX flights until at least the second quarter of 2021.

The grounding followed two fatal crashes

The troubled plane has not flown with passengers since March of 2019 following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, in which 157 people died. This crash occurred after a similar incident in Indonesia saw Lion Air Flight 610 fall into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff in October 2018. In that crash, 189 people lost their lives.

United Airlines has 14 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: United Airlines

Following an extensive investigation, Boeing has been working on a fix so that pilots have more autonomy and can override the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). 

Pilots need more training

While the FAA has approved the new software, they have also issued a directive saying that all pilots need more training on the Boeing 737 MAX before flying the aircraft. According to aviation enthusiast website Planespotters.net, United Airlines currently has 14 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft with an average age of 2.2 years. On the United Airlines website, the Star Alliance member is taking the FAA’s recommendations and directives seriously and will ensure that its 737 MAX aircraft are safe.

Steps United are taking include the following:

  • Computer-based instruction
  • Hands-on training in a full-flight simulator
  • Test flights

Before the aircraft are deemed ready to return to service, each of them will undergo a series to test flights by Boeing 737 MAX test pilots to ensure that the planes are safe.

How to tell if you will be on a 737 MAX

As if flying right now wasn’t stressful enough with COVID-19 out of control in the United States, passengers will now have the added worry of knowing they might be flying on a 737 MAX. One way of knowing whether or not a 737 MAX is on the route you are flying is to go to the flight tracker website FlightRadar24.com and just type in your flight number and departure and arrival airports.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
Flightradar24 is a great way to see what plane you will be flying. Photo: United Airlines

When you originally booked your flight, it may say that a Boeing 737-800 is being used. We all know that airlines have a habit of swapping planes at the last minute. With FlightRadar24.com, you have up to the minute knowledge about which aircraft you will be flying on.

Are you ready to become a Boeing 737 MAX passenger again, or are you like me and going to wait a while before deciding that the plane is now safe to fly? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.