Southwest Airlines CEO Says More Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Are Likely
Southwest Airlines expects to keep Boeing's 737 MAX off its schedule beyond Oct. 1, Reuters reported on Monday.
That development comes as Boeing continues to work on a software fix to the MAX's flight controls, suspected of contributing to two fatal crashes of the new workhorse jet. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration identified a second issue with the plane during simulator testing, and the agency is now requiring the manufacturer to address those concerns, too.
All that means the MAX is likely to remain grounded for longer than airlines originally expected. After the crashes, regulators around the world prohibited the aircraft from flying. That's forced airlines with MAXes in their fleets to to scramble to fill gaps in their schedules as they continually push back their return-to-service plans.
According to the Reuters report, Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly wrote in an internal memo that the ongoing work to address the plane's issues is causing uncertainty for the airline.
“I’m sure this will cause us to have to take the MAX out of the schedule beyond Oct. 1,” he wrote, adding that the airline needed to find out “what other modifications we might need to make our plans for this year because it’s obviously extending well beyond what I had hoped.”
With 34 MAXes in its fleet, Southwest is the largest operator of Boeing 737s in the US. The carrier said last week that it expects to cancel about 150 flights a day while the planes remain grounded.