United Airlines is again delaying the expected return date for its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets. The airline said that it has removed the Max from its schedule until Dec. 19, six weeks longer than previously planned.
United owns 14 Max jets, which have been grounded since March after the second of two accidents that together killed 346 people. Taking the Max out of the schedule reduces United’s risk of alienating customers by canceling flights close to departure if the plane does not return to service as quickly as Boeing hopes.
United’s announcement means it could be flying the Max the week before the December holidays — a period when heavy travel and bad weather can harm operations. Southwest Airlines is delaying its use of the plane until early January.
Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive, said United’s timing is possible if computer-based training for pilots and some “confidence-inspiring” demonstration flights can be wrapped up in November. With each passing month, the loss of the Max results in more flights being dropped from United’s schedule — from 70 a day in September to 96 a day for most of December — because it’s not getting any new deliveries either. United expected to have 27 Max jets by the end of September and 30 by the end of the year. The Chicago-based carrier has nearly 800 planes in its fleet. Airlines have not been able to quickly replace the missing planes, so they are cutting back on growth — or in the case of Southwest, actually shrinking.—Arab News