United Will Resume Boeing 737 MAX Flights In Early 2021

Airlines around the United States are beginning to bring their 737 MAXs out of long term parking after the Federal Aviation Administration cleared the plane to fly again. After an expensive eighteen-month grounding, airlines are keen to get their MAXs back in the air. The million-dollar question is – will passengers be happy to board a MAX flight?

United Airlines plans to resume flying the 737 MAX early in 2021. Photo: United Airlines

Between them, three big United States airlines have over 60 Boeing 737 MAXs sitting idle. To date, Southwest Airlines is the biggest operator of MAXs in the United States, with 34 of them. American Airlines has 24 MAXs, and United Airlines has 14 sitting on tarmacs. All three airlines are now working on getting them flying again.

Earlier today, Edward Russell from The Points Guy said United Airlines aimed to resume Boeing 737-9 MAX flights out of its Denver and Houston hubs in the first quarter of 2021. We reached out to confirm that with United, and a spokesperson said Edward Russell was on the money. However, the airline could not give a more definite start date.

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American Airlines will be the first United States airline to fly the 737 MAX again

American Airlines is more specific. In a letter sent to employees and published on the airline’s website, senior management said they were taking a “phased approach” to return the MAX to service.

“We will begin with non-commercial flights in early December before the official return to service date to demonstrate that the 737 MAX is as safe as every plane we fly at American.

“On‌ December‌ 29, we will resume scheduled service with two flights a day — or one round trip from Miami to La Guardia — through‌ January‌ 4. After that, we expect to gradually phase more 737 MAX aircraft into revenue service throughout January, with up to 36 departures from our Miami hub depending on the day of the week.”

Boeing 737 MAX, Grounding, One Year
American Airlines will be the first US airline to resume 737 MAX flights. Photo: Getty Images

Southwest Airlines says three to four months to get the MAX flying again

In a media call in November, Southwest’s Senior Vice President of Air Operations, Alan Kasher, said it would take three to four months to return the 737 MAX to service.

“(The) return to service is expected to happen no sooner than approximately the second quarter of next year. That can only happen, of course, after we install and test the software upgrades, conduct complete maintenance checks, operate multiple readiness flights with every MAX, and that’s well before our customers board these aircraft.”

In the same media call, another executive at the airline noted Southwest does not have specific routes or airports where the 737 MAX is assigned. Planes flow through the Southwest system.

“We’ll certainly want to get closer to travel days to confirm the type of aircraft scheduled to operate the specific flight. And we certainly don’t want to surprise people at the gate or onboard if they prefer not to fly on the MAX.”

Southwest Airlines expects to take three to four months to return the 737 MAX to service. Photo: Southwest Airlines

Alaska Airlines joins the party, remains bullish on the 737 MAX

Alaska Airlines also plans to fly the 737 MAX in 2021. In fact, despite all the problems with the MAX, Alaska Airlines remains bullish on the plane. So much so, the airline recently agreed to lease 13 more new Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft. Alaska Airlines Alaska will sell 10 Airbus A320s to Air Lease Corporation in exchange for the MAXs. In a statement in mid-November, Alaska Airlines said;

“Our first aircraft, a MAX 9 model, is currently scheduled for delivery in early 2021 and will begin passenger service in March 2021.

“We have high expectations and confidence that Boeing has made the required changes and necessary improvements to the 737 MAX and that, with these updates, the MAX will meet the high safety standards we expect.”

While the airlines are keen to get their planes working again. All of them make a point of expressing confidence in the plane, Boeing, and the FAA. However, whether America’s traveling public shares the enthusiasm remains to be seen