Southwest is joining American Airlines in extending the period that its fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft will remain grounded. Following an announcement from American Airlines last week that said the airline will be keeping the beleaguered Boeing aircraft out of service through the first week of September, Southwest Airlines said in a news update that it was keeping the its planes off the schedule through September 2.
The airline apologized and stated:
“In April, we revised our flight schedule by removing the MAX through Aug. 5 to offer reliability to our operation and stability for our Customers during the busy summer travel months. With the timing of the MAX’s return-to-service still uncertain, we are again revising our plans to remove the MAX from our schedule through Sept. 2.
By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our Customers’ travel plans. We will proactively contact all Customers whose itineraries will be impacted by the revision to offer them maximum flexibility and re-accommodate them well in advance of their travel date. The revision will proactively remove roughly 100 daily flights from our schedule out of our total peak-day schedule of more than 4,000 daily flights.”
Southwest is the largest U.S. operators of the Max 8 aircraft with 34 in its fleet. American operates 24 Max 8s. The groundings have affected more than 100 daily flights on each of the airlines.
Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg addressed the controversy just ahead of the Paris Air Show, this week at Paris-Le Bourget Airport.
According to press conference reports, Muilenburg discussed the company’s apparent lack of communication over a faulty sensor in its 737 MAX aircraft and referred to the “angle of attack (AOA) disagree alert” — a key safety feature of the 737 MAX. The failure of this system to function properly is believed to have played a big part in the Lion Air crash of October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019.
Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe told NPR in a phone interview from Paris, “We clearly fell short in the implementation of the AOA disagree alert, and we clearly should have communicated better with our regulators and the airlines.”
In a press release last week, Boeing noted plans on using the 2019 Paris Air Show to showcase its broad range of commercial and defense products, services and technologies, with interactive exhibits, flight display and static displays of its latest aircraft. “The company’s presence and activities at the show will demonstrate its commitment to innovation, industry partnerships and safety.”
However, early reports from the airshow, largest event of its type in the world, show a disappointing start for the aircraft manufacturer. It was expected to launch the 797 — the new mid-sized jet developed to fill the gap in its range between its smaller 737 narrow-body airliner and its much larger 787 and 777 wide-body jets. But that launch is now unlikely.
Rather, archrival Airbus has been unveiling details of its new A321XLR – the latest evolution of the company’s hugely successful A320 series as the longest single-aisle plane range in the world at 4,700 nautical miles. The company claims the new plane can take 244 passengers but on a long-range trip, the number of seats would reduce to 200 or so.
Boeing decided to delay discussion of the 797 and instead is choosing to keep a lowered profile at the show.