Southwest Extends Boeing 737 MAX Groundings to August
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One US airline’s ban on Boeing 737 MAX planes has once again crept further into the future.
Southwest Airlines said Thursday night that it has modified its schedule to account for the imperiled plane being grounded into the first week of August.
“We’ve now modified our schedule through August 5, 2019 to add further stability for Customers booking their summer travel,” Southwest Airlines President Tom Nealon said in a statement. That means that Southwest, which is the US carrier with the most MAX planes in its fleet with 34 of the jet variants, now estimates that the controversial plane will be grounded through the peak summer travel season.
“The limited number of Customers, who have already booked their travel and will be affected by this amended schedule, are being proactively notified so that we can reaccommodate their flight plans well in advance of their travel date,” Nealon wrote.
Earlier this week, Southwest’s stock was downgraded by Wall Street analysts who estimated the plane’s grounding would stretch into the summer months. The carrier already predicted at the end of March it would take a $150 million hit this quarter due the planes being out of commission (along with other operational problems, like a dispute with mechanics). A note from analysts at Cowen at the time said that about 2,800 of Southwest’s flights were canceled after the MAX planes were grounded for just two weeks.
Boeing 737 MAX planes have been grounded around the world after the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, in which all 157 people on board the MAX 8 plane died on March 10. That crash closely mirrored another fatal accident on a MAX 8 jet, a Lion Air flight in Indonesia just five months earlier that killed all 189 people on board. Investigators noted an automated system on the plane activated before both crashes.
On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration is meeting with airlines and pilot unions who fly the MAX to discuss the ongoing safety concerns surrounding the planes as it decides what needs to be done before returning the aircraft to service.
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