United Expects Thousands of Cancellations This Summer Due to 737 MAX

Apr 26, 2019

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The 737 MAX grounding has thrown a huge wrench in the works for airlines around the world. American Airlines and Southwest have each canceled many thousands of flights, and Norwegian has estimated a loss exceeding $50 million.

The grounding has disrupted plans for countless passengers, especially those flying Southwest, since the carrier won’t rebook flyers on other airlines. United flyers have more or less lucked out, though — the airline’s 737 MAX 9 fleet is still quite small, with 14 aircraft grounded, enabling the carrier to use other planes to fill in the gaps.

With the seasonal increase in flights, airlines have fewer spare aircraft in the summer, however, and it seems United isn’t going to be able to maintain its streak of canceling very few flights. In a statement, a spokesperson explained, “Since the grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft in March, United has gone to great lengths to minimize the impact on our customers’ travel plans. We’ve used spare aircraft and other creative solutions to help our customers, who had been scheduled to travel on one of our 14 MAX aircraft, get where they are going. But, it’s harder to make those changes at the peak of the busy summer travel season.”

According to the airline:

  • For the month of April, United expects approximately 130 MAX-related cancellations.
  • In May, some 900 flights may be canceled.
  • In June, United expects to cancel 35-40 flights a day, for a rough total of 1,120 flights.
  • United will continue to swap aircraft, substituing larger ones in, to mitigate disruption whenever possible.
  • Affected passengers will be automatically booked on alternate flights. If an alternative isn’t available, the airline will reach out to discuss rebooking options.

United continues, “We have decided to pull MAX flights out of our schedule through early July. During this period, we’ll continue to take extraordinary steps to protect our customers’ travel plans. Moving forward, we’ll continue to monitor the regulatory process and nimbly make the necessary adjustments to our operation and our schedule to benefit our customers who are traveling this summer.”

Of the US carriers, so far, United hasn’t committed to removing the MAX from its schedule quite as far into the year — Southwest, the largest US operator, has pulled the MAX through August 5, while American has removed the plane through August 19. United does require FAA approval to re-launch service, of course — regardless of how long the airline expects to be without the plane at this point, we won’t see United’s MAX 9 return to the skies before that comes through.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/TPG 

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