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Here's When Airlines Expect Boeing 737 MAX Service to Return

April 15, 2019
9 min read
Here's When Airlines Expect Boeing 737 MAX Service to Return
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Following the decision last month to ground the Boeing 737 MAX worldwide, airlines that operate the aircraft hoped for a quick fix. Boeing had a software update for the MAX version of the 737 in the works before the second crash of the airplane prompted the grounding, but findings from the preliminary investigation of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have indicated that the MCAS stall-prevention system, which is widely considered to have played a part in both crashes, might require a more thorough fix. The grounding might extend well into the summer as a consequence.

While some airlines had initially canceled or adjusted flights operated by the 737 MAX until mid- to late April, major operators including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have adjusted their schedules to reflect a more realistic timeline of the aircraft's re-entry into service. Here is an overview of how some major Boeing 737 MAX operators are handling the continued grounding of the aircraft.

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 13: Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger planes sit on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on March 13, 2019 in Phoenix, United States. The United States has followed countries around the world and has grounded all Boeing 737 Max aircraft following the crash of an Ethiopia Airlines 737 Max 8. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Grounded MAXes (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines (31 aircraft)

Operating the largest fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft of any airline in the world, Southwest has arguably experienced the most challenges because of rhe grounded aircraft. Just this week, Southwest Airlines updated the airline's schedule to reflect the absence of the 737 MAX from the fleet through August 5. A spokesperson from Southwest said that this date was set to "add further stability for customers booking their summer travel."

Removed from schedule throughAugust 5
Daily flights affected~160
Passenger accommodationsCustomers affected by 737 MAX cancellations can rebook flights with no fare difference

American Airlines (24 aircraft)

The biggest airline in the world used the MAX 8 model, with 172 seats, primarily on flights between New York and Miami, Los Angeles and Washington DC, and towards South America and the Caribbean. AA has updated its schedule to reflect the continued grounding of the 737 MAX through August 19. Like Southwest Airlines, American made the decision to adjust its schedule through August to "provide better service to our customers with availability and rebooking options," a spokesperson said. American Airlines, in addition to providing rebooking options, has substituted larger aircraft like the Boeing 757 on routes operated by the 737 MAX.

Like other airlines, American has dedicated a page on its website about the grounding of the 737 MAX. Passengers concerned with the status of their flight can learn more about how American Airlines is handling operational issues here.

Removed from schedule throughAugust 19
Daily flights affected~90
Passenger accommodations
  • AA is proactively reaching out to customers to provide rebooking options
  • AA is allowing customers to receive full refunds for 737 MAX-related cancellations

Air Canada (24 aircraft)

Canada's largest airline has a substantial number of 737 MAX in its fleet. When the aircraft was in service, it flew to major cities in the United States and even to Europe. Air Canada updated its schedule to reflect the continued grounding through the end of July. The airline has also had to suspend certain routes and substitute larger aircraft on select routes. Additionally, Air Canada said that it is rapidly integrating two Airbus A321s it just took over from WOWAir, which collapsed in mid-March.

Removed from schedule throughJuly 31
Daily flights affected<2% of total
Passenger accommodations
  • Air Canada is allowing passengers to rebook flights within 3 weeks of the original flight
  • Flights from Halifax (YHZ) to London-Heathrow (LHR) and from St. John’s (YYT) to London-Heathrow (LHR) suspended
  • Lufthansa (partner airline) is operating flights between Montreal and Frankfurt to replace Air Canada flights
  • Larger aircraft, including the Boeing 787-9, substituted on select routes
  • Some flights transitioning to subsidiary Air Canada Rouge
  • Dedicated 737 MAX page
An Air Canada 737 MAX 8 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Norwegian Air (18 aircraft)

Norwegian Air had been using its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on numerous trans-Atlantic flights. The airline's operations from bases in Ireland have been affected the most by the grounding. The airline has released an updated schedule regarding its flights to and from Ireland this summer.

Norwegian Air has proactively addressed issues that may arise as a result of the 737 MAX's grounding. The airline was forced to consolidate flights from Dublin to New York (SWF) and Providence (PVD) by temporarily suspending flights to Providence and providing bus transportation from SWF to Providence for affected passengers. The airline has also shifted some Boeing 737-800 aircraft to routes previously operated by the 737 MAX.

Removed from schedule throughIndefinitely
Daily flights affectedUnknown
Passenger accommodations
  • Customers affected are offered the option to rebook their flight or receive a full refund
  • Aircraft reallocated and select routes combined
  • Dedicated 737 MAX page

United (14 aircraft)

Operating the smallest fleet of 737 MAX of the three US airlines that fly the jet, United is the only operator of the larger MAX 9 variant. It has fared better than both Southwest and American following the grounding of the aircraft. A spokesperson for United said that "by using larger aircraft on those routes, we have been able to protect our customers’ original itineraries." Still, United has had to work to adjust its schedule to minimize any operational impacts.

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Removed From Scheduled thruMay 31
Daily Flights Impacted130 737 MAX-related cancellations during the month of April, or ~5 daily flights
Passenger Accommodations
  • Nearly all 737 MAX flights have been covered by alternative aircraft
  • Passengers concerned with the status of their flight can contact United directly
A United 737 MAX 9 (Photo by Zach Honig/TPG)

WestJet (13 aircraft)

Canada's second-largest airline, WestJet, operates 13 737 MAX primarily on longer transcontinental flights and between the airline's hubs. WestJet has managed to cope with the absence of the 737 MAX relatively well since the aircraft made up just 10% of the airline's fleet. A spokesperson for the airline said that "we anticipate limited changes to our guests’ travel itineraries."

One of the ways in which WestJet has minimized the impact of the 737 MAX absence from operations includes introducing the airline's new Boeing 787 Dreamliners with lie-flat business class on flights between Calgary (YYC) and Toronto (YYZ).

Removed from schedule throughJune 30
Daily flights affected~35
Passenger accommodations
  • Minimal operational impacts; check with WestJet directly if you are concerned about your flight
  • Select flights between Calgary (YYC) and Toronto (YYZ) now operated with Boeing 787
  • Dedicated 737 MAX page

Aeromexico (6 aircraft)

With just six Boeing 737 MAX in the airline's fleet, Aeromexico told TPG that the airline has managed to minimize operational issues as a result of the grounding of the aircraft. Additionally, a spokesperson said in a statement that, "It is expected the MAXes are to fly again in June, yet Aeromexico is waiting for Boeing and corresponding authorities to give a final resolution on the certification of the aircraft, in order to define next steps." That June date may be optimistic, considering what other airlines are doing to their schedules with the MAX.

Removed from schedule throughMay 31
Daily flights affectedUnknown
Passenger accommodations
  • Larger aircraft including the airline's Boeing 787s now used on select 737 MAX routes; other aircraft substitutions
  • Airline offering change-fee waivers to affected customers

Additional Airlines Operating the 737 MAX

Other airlines with the 737 MAX aircraft in their fleet include Copa Airlines, flydubai, Icelandair, TUI Fly and Turkish Airlines, among others. None of the following airlines have provided an updated timeline. The following list includes links to each airline's most recent statement and passenger updates on the 737 MAX grounding:

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Featured image by AFP/Getty Images