United Extends Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Into December

Aug 30, 2019

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United Airlines has again extended its cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights, saying that the jets now won’t return to its schedules until Dec. 19.

Previously, United had the 737 MAX returning to its schedules on Nov. 3.

If United is able to return the aircraft to its schedule according to its newest projection, it would help give the carrier extra slack to handle the volume of travelers expected to fly around the busy Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

However, pushing the MAX cancellations from November into December means the planes won’t return in time to help United with the Thanksgiving crunch. But by taking the MAXes off the schedule now, it gives United flexibility to replace some MAX flights with other aircraft or to cancel flights far enough in advance to allow affected customers to be put on other flights.

“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 statement to TPG. “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.”

With the latest update, United expects to cancel about 93 flights a day in November — or about 2,800 for the entire month — because of the MAX. For the portion of December that the MAX will be grounded, United expects 96 cancellations a day.

It remains unclear when the MAX might be cleared to fly again.

One of the two United 737 MAXes kept in storage at LAX (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)
A United 737 MAX in storage at LAX earlier this year, before being moved to a different airport (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)

“During this period, we’ll continue to take extraordinary steps to protect our customers’ travel plans,” United said. “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 with us.”

United’s latest update to its 737 MAX schedules likely came as little surprise to industry observers.

With no indication about when the FAA or other global regulators might clear the MAX fly again, having the jet return to schedules by Nov. 3 seemed increasingly unlikely.

Underscoring the uncertainty around the MAX, United said earlier this week it would move all 14 of its already-delivered MAXes to a storage facility in Arizona.

United said it was doing so to move the planes out of Houston – where 12 had been stored – as peak hurricane season approaches. United also had been keeping two MAXes at Los Angeles, but said a construction project there led it to reposition those to Arizona, too.

Featured image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

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