American Airlines said Tuesday that it had pulled the Boeing 737 MAX from its flying schedule until Jan. 16, 2020, acknowledging that the troubled jet likely would not be ready in time for the busy holiday travel season.
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March, after the second of two deadly crashes that combined to kill nearly 350 people. What was originally supposed to be a quick recertification process to get the plane back in the skies has dragged on for months, forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights daily and costing them hundreds of millions of dollars.
American had previously banked on the 737 MAX returning to service in December. The Dallas-based airline said Tuesday that it expected the Federal Aviation Administration to recertify the plane by the end of 2019, allowing it to resume flights in early 2020.
American is one of only three U.S. airlines that flies the Boeing 737 MAX, with just 24 in its fleet. Southwest Airlines has 33, while United has just 14. Southwest has already delayed the return of the 737 MAX until Jan. 5 – United expects it to return Dec. 19.
Take this latest update on the 737 MAX with a grain of salt. And a large one at that.
When regulators across the world grounded the 737 MAX, Boeing and U.S. airlines promised it wouldn't take long to resume flights. But the recertification process to ensure the planes are safe has been fraught with problems.
While trying to fix the software issue believed to have caused both crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, regulators have discovered new issues with the plane. It's made the return to service unpredictable, forcing airlines to constantly push it back in their schedules.
First, it was supposed to resume flying by June. Then that was delayed until July, and pushed back again until at least October. An early fall return was delayed until December. And now, it seems all but certain that the 737 MAX won't fly again in 2019.
Another month, another delay for the 737 MAX's return to the skies.
Lead photo courtesy of Victor via Flickr