Southwest again extends Boeing 737 MAX cancellations, now eyes April return
Southwest Airlines has again delayed its expected return of the Boeing 737 MAX, now saying it will now take the jet off its schedules until April 13. The airline previously had the MAX returning on March 6.
Southwest’s move comes just a day after Boeing confirmed it would temporarily halt production of the MAX as it waits for regulators to recertify the aircraft, an effort that’s taken longer than Boeing expected.
The three U.S. airlines that already have the MAX in their fleets – American, Southwest and United – have repeatedly had to adjust their schedules to account for the rolling grounding of the aircraft.
“Based on continued uncertainty around the timing of MAX return to service, the Company is proactively removing the MAX from its flight schedule through April 13, 2020,” Southwest said in a Tuesday morning statement.
By proactively taking the jet out of scheduled service as the MAX grounding persists, airlines add stability by not having to make last-minute cancellations each time there is a schedule adjustment. In doing so, Southwest said “we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our customers' travel plans.”
Despite the ongoing problems in getting the aircraft back in the sky, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said as recently as Thursday he remains confident in the aircraft.
“We think it’s the best 175-seat airplane in the world,” Kelly said during a Dec. 12 Wings Club luncheon in New York. He added the airline is “very pleased” with the 737 MAX, and looks forward to having as many as 115 of the aircraft in Southwest’s fleet by the end of 2020.
“We remain confident that, once certified by the FAA, the enhancements will support the safe operation of the MAX,” Southwest added in its Tuesday statement about the latest schedule update.
Contributing: Zach Wichter.