Boeing 737 MAX Crisis Causes United To Cancel First Route

The drawn-out Boeing 737 crisis continues to impact on airlines. United Airlines is putting its daily Chicago to Leon service into hiatus from September 2019. The airline is attributing this to the ongoing problems caused by the 737 MAX grounding.

Aircraft shortages caused by the MAX grounding have forced United to cancel its Chicago – Leon flights. Photo: Colin Brown Photography via Flickr.

Leon (in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico) is just shy of 400 kilometers north west of Mexico City. United has been flying a daily Embraer 175 out of O’Hare into the city of one and a quarter million people. That service is now being temporarily cancelled in order to use the E175 on other routes affected by the 737 MAX cancellation.

Maddie King, spokesperson for United told Simple Flying that,

“We have made the decision to temporarily suspend service between Chicago O’Hare and Leon, Mexico (BJX), in order to help mitigate issues resulting from the grounding of the MAX aircraft and better optimize our resources to address customer needs in markets served from Chicago.

“Our customers traveling to Leon will continue to be served through our Houston hub which operates up to four times daily year-round service between Houston and Leon.”

It has been a relatively short-lived foray out of Chicago into Leon for United Airlines. Their flights there from the Windy City only started in October 2018. Around that time, United canceled its twice-daily flights between Leon and LAX.

United Airlines and Mexico

After a fairly committed push in recent years into Mexico, United has been busy adjusting its schedules and routes into Mexico over the last year. However, these adjustments pre-dated the 737 MAX grounding.

United’s flights between Mexico City and Los Angeles LAX and Mexico City and Denver have been cut altogether.

United has cut a lot of flights into Mexico out of Houston in the last 12 months. Photo: Katie Haugland Bowen via Flickr.

While flights between Houston and Mexico City adjust according to demand, United told Simple Flying that throughout 2019 they have run up to five flights a day between Houston and Mexico City. Flights between Houston and Huatulco, Houston and Mazatlan, and Houston and Villahermosa were cut altogether.

United’s flights to San Luis Potosi were also upgraded to a larger aircraft and flights to Queretaro were increased to four times daily. United also maintains a daily flight into Mexico City from Houston.

Now, with the latest cancellation, remaining United services into Mexico could be amongst the first to go owing to the 737 MAX grounding.

The 737 MAX crisis drags on

You can’t really blame United Airlines. As the 737 MAX grounding drags on, some things have to give. United Airlines was flying 14 737 MAXs prior to the grounding in March. Some of its competitors are even more exposed, such as American who has 24 737 MAXs grounded and Southwest with 34 MAXs sitting idle.

Of the big US carriers, only Delta Air Lines wasn’t flying MAXs. They’ve been reaping the benefits of that fortuitous position ever since, as surplus passengers and revenue heads their way.

737 MAX free Delta Air Lines has benefited from the MAX grounding. Photo: Delta News Hub

There’s no word on when the 737 MAX crisis will be resolved as we head into the fifth month. Airlines, already having run their red pens through flight schedules through to the northern hemisphere autumn, are now looking to cancel flights into the summer as well.

Just two weeks ago Boeing prepped the market for its second quarter 2019 financial results with news that they would be recording a USD$5.6 billion shortfall in revenue owing to the grounding. Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the grounding presented significant headwinds for the company. He said;

“This is a defining moment for Boeing”

More recently, Ryanair’s boss Michael O’Leary, speaking to The Guardian, said of Boeing as he contemplated pushing cancellations through to December.

“It could move to 10 and it could move to zero if Boeing doesn’t get their shit together pretty quickly ….”

Not as poetic as Mr. Muilenburg but no doubt more accurately reflecting the sentiment of airline management and passengers around the world.