Southwest Airlines again pushes back 737 MAX return date

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 28, 2019, Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded, at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP)


NEW YORK (AFP) — Southwest Airlines on Thursday again pushed back its target date for returning the Boeing 737 MAX to service, citing uncertainty about when regulators will permit the jet to fly.

The domestic-focused US carrier pushed the timeframe back about a month to November 2. Boeing’s global 737 MAX fleet has been grounded since mid-March following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.

“We previously revised our flight schedule by removing the MAX through Oct 1 to offer reliability to our operation and stability for our customers,” Southwest said in a statement.

“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 Nov. 2.”

The move means Southwest will “proactively remove” about 180 daily flights from its schedule of more than 4,000 flights, the company said.

The revised timeframe puts the Southwest return date at essentially the same time as the planned return at rival carriers United Continental and American Airlines.

Boeing has been working closely with US regulators in the Federal Aviation Administration and other civil authorities on upgrading the planes to enable them to return to service.

The FAA late last month identified a fresh problem during simulator testing, further clouding the outlook for the plane’s return to service.

After initially expecting the planes to return to service within weeks, the airline announcements now suggest the planes won’t be back in the skies until late this year at the earliest.