Southwest delays Boeing 737 MAX return into June
Southwest Airlines, the largest U.S. operator of the Boeing 737 MAX, said it now plans to keep the plane off its schedule through June 6.
"By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our customers' travel plans," the airline said in a statement. It added that the decision will result in about 330 fewer flights on its schedule each weekday from mid-April until the jet's reintroduction.
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Boeing's 737 MAX, the best-selling single-aisle jet in the world, has been grounded by global regulators since March 2019 following two crashes that together killed 346 people. An automated flight control system contributed to both disasters.
Boeing has been working with airlines, regulators and other industry stakeholders to update the software that controls that system, but a fix has proven more elusive than the manufacturer initially anticipated. Early-on, Boeing promised the MAX would be flying in a matter of months, but in the U.S., the jets will now be grounded for more than a year if current airline plans remain in place.
Southwest previously planned to reintroduce its MAX fleet into service in April, but joined its peers American and United, which both recently announced their own extensions of the grounding.
Even after regulators re-certify the MAX for commercial flights, it will take time for the jets to be prepared for service and for crews to be re-trained on the updates to the aircraft.