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In a sign that it’s likely going to be several more weeks until US airline passengers fly on Boeing 737-MAX jets, American Airlines announced Sunday morning that it has extended cancellations of its MAX aircraft through April 24. The airline made the move “in an effort to provide more certainty” to customers and team members and “better protect” customers on other flights to their final destination, according to a press release.
In the wake of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the second 737 MAX 8 crash in less than six months which killed all on board, the Boeing aircraft has been grounded worldwide as investigators work to figure out what went wrong.
Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines began moving its MAXes to a desert storage facility in Victorville, CA, on Saturday while the investigation continues — another sign that the grounding is far from temporary. The planes are being operated by Check Airmen. In a statement, Southwest said its reason for the move was that, “The positioning of the aircraft was occupying limited space available at the airports where they are parked, not leaving much room for operational disruptions (ATC, weather) and creating some challenges with ongoing construction at several of those locations,” and that, “The planes being in one place will be more efficient for performing the repetitive maintenance necessary for stationary aircraft, as well as any future software enhancements that need to take place.”
American Airlines, whose pilots plan to test a software update to the MAX’s system, called MCAS, in a simulator this weekend, operates the second largest MAX fleet in the US, behind Southwest’s 34. American says this change of plans will result in approximately 90 cancellations each day. Pertaining to Southwest’s MAX move, the airline said there would not be any other contingencies or schedule changes at this time.
The upside is that because American has announced the cancellations relatively early, passengers should have time to rebook on other flights. The downside is that in addition to dealing with rebooking, passengers might also end up having to connect.
American, for its part, is optimistic about the aircraft returning to service, saying, “We are hopeful that the 24 MAX aircraft in our fleet will be flying again soon,” but that the airline is “still awaiting information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), other regulatory authorities and Boeing.”
American says its Reservations team will contact affected customers directly by email or telephone, but that not all flights that were previously scheduled on a MAX will be canceled as the airline plans to substitute other aircraft types. (Customers who booked through a travel agent will be contacted by their agency directly.) However, be aware that some flights not scheduled as a MAX flight might also be canceled so that American can cover a MAX route with a different aircraft. If your flight is canceled and you do not wish to be rebooked, you may request a full refund by visiting aa.com/refunds.
If you have an American flight coming up in the next few weeks it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your seat assignments, as they might have changed during the rebooking process.
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