Southwest Airlines joined other major carriers by pushing back the date of the Boeing 737 MAX’s anticipated return-to-service, announcing that it is removing these planes from its schedule through November 2.
The airline estimates that this move will result in about 180 flights canceled per day, amid its total daily peak-season schedule of over 4,000 flights. At the time of the Boeing model’s worldwide grounding on March 13, 2019, Southwest was the largest U.S. operator of the 737 MAX, having 34 in its fleet.
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Southwest had previously announced plans for the continued removal of the 737 MAX from its service through October 1, following the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) discovery of a second problem in the MAX’ safety systems, which requires additional software fixes and pilot re-training. Boeing had originally hoped to have corrected the aircraft’s issues by summer’s end, but it now appears that the impact of its extended grounding may actually begin to impact holiday travel plans.
With the timing of the MAX’ return-to-service as yet uncertain, Southwest considers the extension of planned flights using those aircraft to be a proactive move. By anticipating the shortage of available aircraft, and re-assigning or re-booking flights where possible, the company believes that it can best assure the reliability of its operations and stability to its customers.
“By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our Customers’ travel plans,” Southwest said in a press release. “We offer our apologies to our customers impacted by this change, and we thank them for their continued patience.”
The limited number of travelers who have already booked such flights are being directly notified of their amended schedules, in keeping with Southwest’s flexible accommodation procedures.
United Airlines first pushed back 737 Max flights to November and American Airlines did the same a few days later.