Both Southwest and American Airlines are taking the Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft off their schedules until March.
Southwest, the Max’s biggest customer, is removing the planes from flight schedules from Feb. 8 to March 6, 2020, the sixth time the airline has announced a 737 Max delay. Southwest is canceling about 175 daily flights during the period because of the aircraft’s grounding, the company said.
Also on Friday, American Airlines said it is removing the plane from schedules from Jan. 16 to March 4, with plans to bring it back March 5. The change will cancel about 140 flights a day for American.
“Based on continued uncertainty around the timing of Max return to service, the company soon plans to proactively remove the Max from its flight schedule through March 6, 2020,” Southwest said.
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Boeing’s 737 Max fleet on March 13, 2019, after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. The crashes were blamed on a faulty software system and sensor.
Southwest has the largest fleet of 737 Max planes. It has 34 in addition to 41 that were expected to be delivered this year. American has 24 of the planes, the second largest of any domestic carrier.
The two airlines have accounted for nearly $1 billion in losses from the grounding of the airplanes, American and Southwest reported last month.
Signs from the two airlines have been mixed about when they think the plane will be ready to fly again.
This week at an investor conference in New York, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said American feels “a lot better about the fact that indeed the aircraft is going to get certified sometime in the near future,” The Associated Press reported.
Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has been cautious about when the plane will be back.
“I am still not highly confident about mid-December,” Kelly said in late October. “But what’s important, of course, is that we give the FAA the time that they need to do their job, which I know they will.”
Boeing says it has submitted software changes to the FAA in hopes of getting the Max certified to fly again, but the regulator has not indicated if or when it will grant approval.
Even after the FAA gives approval for the 737 Max to fly, Kelly said Southwest will need one to two months to get it ready, including time for maintenance and crew training.
Southwest and American have been in discussions with Boeing over compensation for the time the Max has been grounded and delays on delivery of new aircraft.