What Travelers Need to Know About Southwest’s Plans to Ground the 737 MAX All Summer

Apr 13, 2019

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Southwest Airlines has modified its schedule yet again to account for the imperiled 737 MAX now potentially grounded into August. That means that Southwest, the US carrier with the most MAX planes in its fleet (34 of the jet variants), now estimates that the plane will be grounded through the peak summer travel season.

Although the airline has said that with the extension it can build its MAX-less schedule “well in advance in hopes to minimize the daily disruptions,” this change will no doubt leave some travelers in a lurch. The airline has a fleet of more than 700 airplanes in total, so it’s able to take up some of the slack, but 34 grounded jets during the peak travel season is no small problem for any airline, even a giant one.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded, at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California on March 28, 2019. - After two fatal crashes in five months, Boeing is trying hard -- very hard -- to present itself as unfazed by the crisis that surrounds the company. The company's sprawling factory in Renton, Washington is a hive of activity on this sunny Wednesday, March 28, 2019, during a tightly-managed media tour as Boeing tries to communicate confidence that it has nothing to hide. Boeing gathered hundreds of pilots and reporters to unveil the changes to the MCAS stall prevention system, which has been implicated in the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, as part of a charm offensive to restore the company's reputation. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded, at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California (Photo credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

The truth is Southwest is having to get creative with how it uses its remaining planes — which means deciding to cancel some flights preemptively, to the tune of approximately 90 flights per day.

For passengers affected by the latest schedule changes, Southwest said that, “Any Customer booked on a cancelled 737 MAX 8 flight can rebook on alternate flights without any additional fees or fare differences between the original city pairs.” Customers who did not purchase their ticket via southwest.com can call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a customer representative. (For more info, customers can check out the Travel Advisory posted on the airline’s website.)

Recently, Southwest has also taken measures to improve communication with customers through a Live Chat setting on their mobile app. The feature is currently still in its beta phase and is only being offered to a limited number of users. In order to gain access, you must be a Rapid Rewards Member, logged into the latest version of the Southwest Mobile App (version 6.1.0 or newer) and then selected at random to connect to Live Chat.

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.

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Photo credit MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

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