American extends Boeing 737 MAX cancellations into next year
American Airlines has taken the Boeing 737 MAX out of its schedules through Jan. 16, the latest in a rolling set of cancellations for the beleaguered aircraft since it was grounded across the globe in March.
American had previously planned to begin flying the plane on Dec. 3. Now, the latest MAX cancellations will remove the jet from the carrier’s schedule during the busy holiday travel period around Christmas and New Year’s.
The aircraft has been grounded worldwide since March after the second fatal crash of the model in five months. Boeing has since been working on software changes to address safety concerns with the aircraft, which still must be cleared by the FAA and other global regulators before it can begin flying again.
The two other U.S. airlines flying the MAX — Southwest and United — have had to make similar moves. Each has extended their MAX cancellations on numerous occasions, with Southwest now expecting the MAX to return to service on Jan. 6 and United on Dec. 19.
In pushing the 737 MAX’s return to Jan. 16, American said it “anticipates that the impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX will lead to recertification of the aircraft later this year and resumption of commercial service in January 2020.”
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“We are in continuous contact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT),” the carrier added.
American will have to tweak its holiday schedules to handle the latest disruption from the plane’s grounding.
American anticipates the changes will force it to cancel about 140 of the 7,000 daily flights it has each day between Dec. 3 and Jan. 15. The airline will reaccommodate affected passengers on other flights, though that will be more challenging than usual with flights already packed for the holiday period.
In one interesting twist, American said it will not cancel any flight through Jan. 6 that’s currently schedule to be flown with a MAX. Instead, American will fly all of those MAX flights with Boeing 737-800 aircraft that have the same seat configuration as the MAXes that had been scheduled to fly them. “No additional rebooking will be required,” American said in announcing the changes.
Beyond Jan. 6, American said some MAX flights might be canceled until the aircraft begins to gradually creep back into its schedules on Jan. 16.
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But American customers will see cancellations during the holiday period as it shifts other planes onto routes that had been scheduled to fly on the MAX. “In total, approximately 140 flights will be canceled per day through Jan. 15,” American said in its statement.
For now, American said there’s little for passengers to do. The carrier will load a schedule update that includes the latest MAX cancellations overnight Saturday into Sunday. On Sunday, American will begin to notify passengers “directly by email or telephone … . Customers who booked through a travel agent will be contacted by their agency directly.”
American will not permit proactive schedule changes related to the latest MAX update until after the new schedule loads Sunday.
If the MAX does return to service on Jan. 16 as American is now projecting, the airline says it will “slowly” move the 24 MAXes it has already taken delivery off into its schedules into February.
Related: American Airlines suspends first route due to Boeing 737 MAX grounding
American has additional MAXs waiting to be delivered by Boeing, but has not given a timetable as to when that might occur. That schedule likely will be dictated by when regulators move to clear the jet to resume flying.
United and Southwest have said that they would allow passengers to switch to other flights if they were nervous about flying on the MAX.
American has said it will do the same, adding: “Details regarding policies and procedures for customers who do not wish to fly on the MAX once the aircraft enters scheduled service Jan. 16 will be released in the coming weeks.”