In an update announced by American Airlines Sunday, flight cancellations and the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets will continue into the high summer travel season through mid-August.
American (AAL), the world’s largest airline, is choosing safety over profits in a move that extends cancellations from early June through August 19, essentially cancelling 115 flights per day and grounding 1.5 percent of its operations. The airline has 24 737 Max jets in its fleet.
In a letter to its employees, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said, “We remain confident that the impending software updates, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing for the MAX, will lead to recertification of the aircraft soon. We have been in continuous contact with the FAA, Department of Transportation (DOT), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), other regulatory authorities and are pleased with the progress so far.”
The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide by a variety of carriers following a disaster in March when one of the planes flown by Ethiopian Airlines crashed, killing everyone on board. It was the second accident involving the jet model in less than six months. The causes of these crashes are still being investigated.
The grounding of Boeing’s fuel-efficient, single-aisle slogger after two fatal crashes is taking a bite out of U.S. airline inventory, especially as spring and summer travel schedules mount toward peak summer demand. Southwest Airlines which operates 34 MAX jetliners has had to remove the aircraft from flying schedules into August as well, resulting in 160 cancellations of some 4,200 daily flights between June 8 and Aug. 5, according to wire service estimates. The low-cost carrier flies only Boeing 737 models and has had to weather losses of some $150 million through March 31 alone, mostly due to MAX cancellations.
United Airlines operates 14 MAX jets but has largely avoided cancellations by substituting larger 777 or 787 aircraft on MAX routes. However, the fix is inefficient and expensive and largely unsustainable for the airline.
The groundings come as deliveries of new Max jets have been preparing to roll off the assembly line. Southwest has 41 MAX jets pending delivery for 2019, while American has 16 and United 14.
Not surprisingly, a decline in seat capacity could mean higher-priced and fewer last-minute summer fares, particularly for business class travelers, aviation consultants and analysts said.
As an added element of its communications, American included a list of Frequently Asked Questions:
My flight was previously scheduled on a MAX. Will it be canceled?
Not all flights that were previously scheduled on a MAX will be canceled, as we plan to substitute other aircraft types. In total, approximately 115 flights will be canceled per day.
My flight wasn’t scheduled to be on a MAX. Why has it been canceled?
A flight that was not scheduled as a MAX flight might be canceled to enable our team to cover a MAX route with a different aircraft. Our goal is to minimize the impact to the smallest number of customers.
How will customers know if they are impacted?
American’s Reservations team will contact affected customers directly by email or telephone. Customers who booked through a travel agent will be contacted by their agency directly.
My flight was canceled and I don’t want to rebook. Can I get a refund?
Yes. If a flight is canceled and a customer chooses to not be rebooked, they may request a full refund by visiting aa.com/refunds.