American, Southwest Work to Fill Gaps After 737 Max is Grounded

An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 taking off

By Paul Riegler on 15 March 2019
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The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 on Sunday, has left dozens of airlines with gaps to fill in their schedules.

The single-aisle Boeing 737, which was introduced in the 1960s, is the most popular commercial airliner in history and the latest version, the 737 Max, is Boeing’s best-selling aircraft ever.

In the United States, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines operate the Boeing 737 Max 8, which is the type that crashed, and United Airlines operates the 737 Max 9. Even as government after government grounded the 737 Max, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration stood by the aircraft. The agency grounded it on Wednesday citing new evidence collected at the crash site.

While the 737 Max comprises roughly 3% or 72 out of almost 2,500 jetliners in the mainline fleets of the three carriers, it is used on hundreds of flights in the course of a day.

American had nine Max 8s in the air when the United States announced the grounding and operates approximately 85 flights each day with the 24 Max jets in its stable of more than 950 planes. The carrier’s 737 Max fleet is largely concentrated at its hub at Miami International Airport, where it uses the aircraft for flights to the Caribbean and to New York City.

“Teams throughout the airline have been working tirelessly to minimize the impact to you, our customers,” the airline said in an e-mail message to customers on Friday.

Southwest Airlines is the largest operator of the type, with 34 that it uses on 150 trips each day, under 5% of its flights.

“While we remain confident in the MAX 8 after completing more than 88,000 flight hours accrued over 41,000 flights, we support the actions of the FAA and other regulatory agencies and governments across the globe that have asked for further review of the data – including information from the flight data recorder – related to the recent accident involving the MAX 8,” the airline said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, United Airlines, which operates 14 of the larger Max 9 aircraft, said the grounding would affect some 40 daily flights. The Max 9 has not been involved in either the Ethiopian crash nor the Lion Air crash last year.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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