Due to the ongoing grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft, American Airlines announced extended cancellations through the rest of the busy summer flying season: until Labor Day.
In a statement, the airline said that the initial cancellations stemming from the grounding were set to run through August 19, but have now been extended through September 3. “By extending the cancellations, our customers and team members can more reliably plan their upcoming travel on American,” the airline added. “In total, approximately 115 flights per day will be canceled through September 3.”
American operates two dozen 737 MAX planes out of a fleet of 900 aircraft. The Boeing model was globally grounded following two fatal plane crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia (in a span of four months) that pointed to a Boeing flight system flaw. The software issue is thought to have pointed the nose of the plane downward even despite pilot intervention, causing tragic crashes that killed everyone on board.
As for the eventuality of a fix to the grounded planes, American says it “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.”
The airline also explained that “not all flights that were previously scheduled on a MAX will be canceled, as we plan to substitute other aircraft types.” Put differently, the airline will cancel flights on some routes—likely lower-volume routes—to free up aircraft it can substitute in place of higher-volume routes served by the MAX. American says its goal is to “minimize the impact to the smallest number of customers.”
Waiting on a Boeing Fix
Boeing reportedly completed work on a software fix for its troubled aircraft back in May, but neither the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) nor its international counterparts have signed off on it.
“Boeing has said it is redesigning the software so that pilots can more easily shut off the system, keeping it from repeatedly reengaging, and not making it react as dramatically in pushing down the nose,” according to USA Today. “Rather than relying on data from a single sensor, the new system will take a measure of both sensors that tell the system whether the nose is pointed too high.”
The company said it completed 207 test flights with the new software, totaling 360 hours of flight time.
There is no indication from the FAA of a timeline for approval, and one can imagine the agency will take its time to ensure the issue is truly corrected. However, American’s extension of these cancellations suggests the MAX will not be re-certified before the end of the summer travel season, and possibly not until the fall. The MAX has been grounded since mid-March.
Readers: Would you get back on a Boeing 737 MAX after the Ethiopian and Lion Air crashes? Comment below.