American delays MAX return to service until April

December 13, 2019
Southwest Airlines 737 MAX aircraft at Victorville, California. Image: KCAL9.

American Airlines has taken the Boeing 737 MAX out of its schedule until April 7 amid continuing uncertainty about when in 2020 the troubled plane will be recertified.

The US carrier, which had previously tipped March 5 for a return to service, said it had been in continuous contact with the Federal Aviation Administration, the US Department of transportation and Boeing.

“Based on the latest guidance, American anticipates that the resumption of scheduled commercial service on American’s fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will occur April 7, 2020,’’ it said in a statement.

READ: FAA chief confirms MAX grounding will stretch into 2020.

“Once the aircraft is certified, American will run flights for American team members and invited guests only prior to April 7.”

American now expects to gradually phase in the MAX for commercial service and increase flying on the aircraft throughout April.

“Since American will gradually phase the MAX into our operation over the course of a month, additional refinements to our schedule may occur,” it said.  “Affected customers will be contacted directly.”

FAA chief Steve Dickson confirmed this week that recertification of the MAX would not take place until 2020 but was unable to specify when reiterating that the agency would take the time it needed.

He said there were 10 or 11 milestones left to complete, including the validation of the software development.

That’ll take some time, but we’ll work through every step of the process very diligently,” he said.

The grounding of the MAX after two fatal accidents has caused problems for airlines worldwide, not just because of the planes that were grounded last March but due to the new planes that haven’t been delivered.

Ryanair earlier this month again reduced its growth expectations for 2020 and blamed a decision to close two more bases on delays in the delivery of MAX aircraft.

It said it had changed its summer schedule based on receiving just 10 aircraft rather than the 20 expected under its previous revised estimate.

The budget carrier had originally expected to receive its first MAX in the second quarter of 2019 and to have 58 aircraft by the 2020 summer peak.