United Airlines is latest to extend Boeing 737 MAX cancellations into 2020

Oct 11, 2019

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United Airlines has extended its cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights yet again, now saying the plane won’t return to its schedules until Jan. 6.

Previously, United had the MAX returning to its schedules on Dec. 19. With that, all three U.S. operators of the MAX — American and Southwest are the others — have now canceled MAX flights into January.

That means the MAX will remain off those carriers’ schedules throughout the busy Christmas and New Year’s holiday period. American now projects its 737 MAXes will return to service on Jan. 16 and Southwest on Jan. 6.

All three have had to postpone the planned re-entry of the MAX numerous times and work to reaccomodate flyers affected by the schedule disruptions.

“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,” United said in a Friday morning statement announcing the latest schedule update. “We’ve used spare aircraft and other creative solutions to help our customers, who had been scheduled to travel on one of our MAX aircraft, get where they are going.”

Related: Snapshot: A Look at United Airlines by the Numbers

With the jet now off the schedules into January, United added “we’ll continue to take extraordinary steps to protect our customers’ travel plans.”

United expects to cancel about 75 flights a day during December because of the MAX issues and about 56 a day during the portion of January that the aircraft will remain grounded.

That’s a small portion of United’s overall schedule that averages about 4,900 daily departures. Still, the tally adds up over an entire month. In December, for example, United projects it will cancel about 2,300 total flights from its originally planned schedule for the month.

For travelers. the latest schedule update takes the MAX out of service during the busy holiday period that’s marked by high demand and packed planes. That means airlines typically have less slack to accommodate displaced customers.

Related: American’s 757-200s, Southwest’s 737-700s Among Jets Sticking Around Longer Because of the MAX

Though the overall odds of being affected by the latest update are small, United customers booked to fly the carrier during between Dec. 19 and Jan. 6 would be wise to reconfirm their itineraries on the carrier’s app or website.

“We are continuing to work through the schedule to try and swap and upgauge aircraft to mitigate the disruption caused by the grounding of the MAX,” United said. “We continue to automatically book affected customers on alternate flights. If we are unable to place them on a different flight, we will proactively reach out to try and offer other options.”

Once the MAX does return to service, United, American and Southwest have all indicated that they would allow passengers to switch to other flights if they were nervous about flying on the MAX.

Featured photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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