Dallas based American Airlines announced yesterday that they now would not return their 737MAX aircraft to service until at least 4th September 2019, extended from the previous estimated return of 19th August. The airline has 24 of the type on its books, therefore is cancelling 115 flights per day due to the ongoing grounding. Even flights that weren’t scheduled to be operated by the MAX are affected due to those aircraft having to cover flights previously scheduled to be operated by the type. Like most airlines affected by the grounding, American is likely to seek compensation from Boeing due to making an estimated $350million loss while the type is grounded.
Even once the type is certified to return to service, American Airlines has said it can take around 45 days to be reintegrated to the fleet as the pilots will require further training on the systems that have been updated. If the changes are deemed sufficient enough to require simulator training, then it could take longer and cost a lot more. Currently there is only one 737MAX simulator that the airlines have access to in the whole of North America, and currently five airlines (American, United, Southwest, WestJet and Air Canada) operate the type.
Boeing has been working for a fix on the MCAS since the type was grounded in March following two incidents within the space of a few months of each other, both linked to the new system which has been fitted to the type. This new system was deemed necessary as the new engines fitted to the type affected the handling of the plane in certain conditions. Whilst the manufacturer had announced that it had completed the software fix on 16th May 2019, it is still awaiting approval from the regulatory body, the FAA.
Since being introduced to service in May 2017, 393 have been built as of March 2019.
From a personal point of view, I have a flight scheduled to take place on an American Airlines 737MAX on 6th September. If the time frame that American Airlines have given holds, then this will be just its third day back in service with the airline. Am I bothered by this? Not at all. I have total confidence that the authorities, airline and flight crew will make the correct decision as to whether the plane is safe to fly or not. Truth be told, I actually booked the flight with the sole intention of flying the MAX, so I will be a little disappointed if it’s not back in service! Although I am fully expecting it to be subbed to the older 737-800.