It seems like forever since an FAA order grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft of which Southwest Airlines has 34, American has 24, and United 14. Surprisingly, it has only been a handful of months.
And while Boeing management has been optimistic that the troubled aircraft would quickly return to the sky, Southwest, American, and United all just announced that they are canceling their scheduled 737 MAX flights well into the fall. According to reports, the new dates are:
- American: November 2
- United: November 3
- Southwest: October 1
This is of course bad news for travelers on these airlines as flights already booked are rearranged and rescheduled due to the continued loss of these vital aircraft.
Ironically, Boeing originally expected a software fix by April, this has been further complicated by other software glitches that have been revealed. According to a Washington Post report, it is now expected that Boeing will complete its fixes by the end of September, which would potentially get the Boeing 737 MAX back in the air by sometime in November. This is all subject to FAA approval in the United States, and the approval of government authorities in other countries around the world.
For its part, the FAA is taking a wait-and-see attitude to testing and approving Boeing's eventual fixes. Says Lynn Lunsford, spokesperson for the FAA:
The FAA is following a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the Boeing 737 Max to passenger service. The FAA will lift the aircraft's prohibition order when we deem it is safe to do so.
So, until that comes to pass, Southwest, American, and United will continue to have to push out their schedules--inconveniencing its customers and losing a lot of money in the process, potentially many millions of dollars.
And even if and when the 737 MAX returns to service, there's no guarantee that passengers will want to fly on them. I personally expect it will take quite some time before everything returns to normal for Boeing--and for the airlines that fly the 737 MAX.