MIAMI — Two deadly crashes, a worldwide grounding, and engineers rallying to fix system glitches to satisfy aviation regulators in time to get the Boeing 737 MAX jets back into commercial airspace could take longer than initially expected. American Airlines is closing ranks with United Airlines to extend the plane’s grounding until November.
“Impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year,” said American Airlines in a statement released Sunday, following United’s decision the previous Friday.
The cancellations mean approximately 115 flights a day to be scrubbed by American with a loss of near $185 million since the grounding so far.
Further delays, including pilot re-training and over 100 hours of maintenance preparation before flying, could take weeks if not months and could result in a shaky bottom-line for airlines if problems with the jet seep into the busy, high-priced-ticket holiday season.
The decision to extend the grounding came as no surprise as Boeing announced in late June that a newly found software flaw by the FAA while testing a simulated flight-control computer malfunction which Boeing might not have patched up until fall.
Citing unidentified sources within the FAA and pilot-union leaders, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the plane is expected to start flying again in January 2020 ‘under the latest scenario,’ and that the situation is ‘fluid’ with no firm timeline established.”
“Our Reservations and Sales teams will continue to work closely with customers who are impacted by these cancellations,” noted American in their statement.
“A flight that was not scheduled as a MAX flight might be canceled to enable our team to cover a MAX route with a different aircraft. Our goal is to minimize the impact to the smallest number of customers.”
United’s Boeing 737 MAX groundings will result in about 2,100 cancellations in September and 2,900 in October.
The only other U.S. airline with 737 MAX planes in their fleet, Southwest Airlines, is expected to follow suit in the extension and so far has conceded to 150 daily flight cancellations through to October 1.