United Airlines has pushed the planned reintroduction of the 737 MAX back to June — two months later than rival American — as uncertainty continues about the troubled plane’s return to service.
The US carrier said the move was best for its customers and operations given the MAX return to service was still unknown.
“By moving the return to service date back more than just a month — as we have done previously throughout 2019 — it allows us to have more certainty by providing our customers and our operation a firmer and more definitive timeline,” a spokesman said.
American announced earlier this month that it would take the MAX out of its schedule until April 7, citing similar reasons to United.
The global MAX fleet has bee grounded since March after two fatal accidents at Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines killed 346 people.
Although the crashes are the result of a combination of factors, a common link was flight control software in the planes known as MCAS that pilots didn’t know about and which aggressively pushed down the noses of the planes.
Boeing has since modified MCAS and the flight training associated with it but needs to get regulators around the world to sign off on the changes before the plane can fly again.
The United decision comes after Boeing last week decided to halt production of the MAX from January and conceded recertification had moved into January.
The manufacturer had continued to build new MAX aircraft during the grounding and estimates it now has about 400 jets in storage.
It said it had decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend MAX production.
“We believe this decision is least disruptive to maintaining long-term production system and supply chain health,’’ it said.
“This decision is driven by a number of factors, including the extension of certification into 2020, the uncertainty about the timing and conditions of return to service and global training approvals, and the importance of ensuring that we can prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft.”
Until recently, the US manufacturer had maintained what proved to be an overly optimistic stance that the aircraft could be at least be re-certified in the US by the end of 2019.
The new head of the US Federal Aviation Administration has repeatedly said the agency will not recertify the MAX until it is convinced it is safe to do so.