‘No one knows’ when Boeing 737 MAX really will return, United CEO says

Oct 16, 2019

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Airlines that fly the Boeing 737 MAX have had to repeatedly shuffle their schedules thanks to the ongoing grounding of the aircraft.

All three U.S. airlines that fly the plane have changed their schedules numerous times since the MAX was first grounded in March. Now, American, Southwest and United each have pushed the planned restart of the MAX into next year, but it’s not completely clear when the jet might actually fly again.

United announced its latest update to its MAX schedule just last week, saying it would extend its MAX cancellations until Jan. 6. Previously, United had projected a Dec. 19 return.

But United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz acknowledged some uncertainty about that date Wednesday during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” CNBC host Phil LeBeau pressed Munoz on the issue, saying “there is increasingly less confidence that this will be certified and returning to service by the end of the year. … Do you really have confidence in that early January start date?”

Related: Here’s what the 737 MAX groundings mean for your holiday travel

“No one knows,” Munoz replied. “We’ve been doing this for seven months. The important part is that it’s returned safely.”

When asked to assess the impact of the grounding for United, Munoz said “clearly it hurts.”

“I think at this point we would have 80 to 100 flights that would be in the air,” he added. “But, again, it’s just — the important part about that conversation is that aircraft will return safely. And that’s all we really care about. So, we await the FAA and the regulators to do their thing.”

Featured by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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