With continued uncertainty about the return to service timeframe for the Boeing 737 MAX, Southwest Airlines announced today that they will remove the aircraft from their schedule until April 13, 2020.
Southwest Airlines announced Tuesday that amid uncertainty related to the return to service (RTS) date for the Boeing 737 MAX, they have removed the aircraft from their schedule until April 13, 2020. The airline had previously projected a return date of March 6, 2020. In Tuesday’s announcement, the Southwest Airlines stated they are proactively making the schedule change in order to offer reliability in their operation and stability for their customers. The airline continues to monitor information from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the 737 MAX software enhancements and for guidance on the new training requirements.
It has become clear that despite early optimism from Boeing, the 737 MAX is unlikely to RTS before the second quarter of 2020. The FAA will ultimately issue an airworthiness directive (AD) to certify the aircraft, once they are confident all the necessary changes to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software has been exhaustively vetted. The FAA has signaled that they will not be subject to time pressure and the RTS will occur when they are fully satisfied that all issues have been resolved. For airlines, this will likely also require new training guidelines, not to mention the maintenance work required to bring stored aircraft back into service. Boeing announced on Monday that they will suspend 737 MAX production in January 2020, allowing them to focus on preparing and delivering around 400 parked aircraft.
Today’s announcement will remove around 300 flights from Southwest’s over 4,000 daily departures and affected customers will be notified of their re-accommodations. The airline reiterated that the purpose of their proactive decision to remove the MAX from their schedule is to reduce last-minute flight cancellations which could disrupt their customer’s travel plans.
Source: Southwest Airlines