American Airlines announced it will cancel flights on its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft until after Labor Day in the U.S., which this year takes place Sept. 2. The setback comes during a week in which American continues to face rolling delays and cancellations resulting from massive storms that ravaged operations across the U.S.
In a statement, the airline added that all passengers booked on the MAX on flights before that date should keep an eye on their travel plans, as the airline would be forced to cancel some of those flights. The airline is choosing to cancel the services rather than substitute in other aircraft as it continues to prioritize flights with more passengers.
American also said that once the tragedy-stricken aircraft is given the all-clear by all of the relevant authorities, chiefly Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, it would need approximately 45 days to reintegrate the MAX back into the fleet. The delay would ensure all the airline’s pilots are properly trained and well-versed on all the updates Boeing brings to the table.
That timetable means that, if the airline does hope to bring back the 737 MAX the day after Labor Day, American would need to begin training around July 20, leaving only another month for Boeing and the FAA to provide them the necessary info and fixes to begin internal work. In a statement, however, the airline said it remains hopeful.
“American Airlines remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft soon,” its statement said, according to ABC. “By extending the cancellations, our customers and team members can more reliably plan their upcoming travel on American.”
The airline had previously had dates for the return of the 737 MAX that ranged to as early as May or June. Though, as the scope of the issues with the aircraft expanded, it quickly became obvious the MAX would not be back in revenue service when some initially expected.
Boeing, on the other hand, has yet to provide a firm date as to when the company hopes to bring its aircraft back into commercial service. However, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said June 3 in an interview on a CNBC program that he expects to see the MAX flying again commercially by the end of the year.
While it was stressed he was providing no exact timetable, Muilenburg also added in the interview that Boeing would be working with the FAA last week in the simulator before scheduling test flights aboard actual MAX aircraft with the updated software. Muilenburg added that he’s aware both Boeing and airlines will have to contend with a loss of public trust for the manufacturer and the aircraft that has arisen since two crashes of the MAX led to over 300 lives lost.
Even as airlines continue to work tirelessly to work their MAX aircraft back into their schedules, many have left the door open for passengers who do not want to fly the aircraft to rebook without a fee. Passengers whose flights were scheduled on the MAX but were canceled, largely, are in the same situation, with the opportunity to either be rebooked or to ask for a refund as airlines’ schedules continue to suffer through the busy summer travel season.