Air Canada said Wednesday that it has removed the Boeing 737 MAX from its flying schedule until February 14 because ongoing regulatory uncertainty could cause problems as it launches a new reservation system.
Transportation authorities around the world grounded the MAX, a more fuel-efficient update for the popular short-to-medium range jet, in March after two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.
The no-fly order has hit Air Canada harder than other airlines because the MAX represented a larger portion of its passenger capacity. The carrier had 18 MAX airplanes in operation at the time, along with six in the delivery pipeline, but was only able to replace about half the slots in its schedule with other aircraft. Boeing is scheduled to make 43 more planes for Air Canada, but cannot deliver any planes until the MAX is recertified for commercial operation.
“The extension will give us scheduling predictability through the implementation of the first phase of our new reservation system and the required stability as we prepare the second phase of the system rollout, introducing it into the airport environment,” said Chief Commercial Officer Lucie Guillemette, in a statement.
Air Canada also has leased two wide-body aircraft through at least mid-March to ensure sufficient capacity for customers, she added.
Last week, American Airlines delayed the resumption of MAX service until mid-January. Southwest Airlines currently plans to transition the MAX back into its fleet starting January 5.
But the tentative resumption of MAX service is subject to change by airlines that are making educated guesses about when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Transport Canada and other aviation authorities will approve the aircraft to fly again. Boeing and some airline industry executives have suggested the green light could come by early November, but others say such a timetable is optimistic.
Boeing is working to make software fixes to its flight control computers. The software, known as MCAS, was blamed for automatically pitching down the nose of the two airplanes that crashed based on faulty readings from a single sensor about a possible stall without allowing pilots to overcome action.
Last week, a panel of international aviation regulators made a dozen recommendations for improving the FAA’s certification process for new aircraft, including more focus on how pilots will react in more automated environments. The review panel said Boeing staff didn’t communicate well with the FAA about some of the system changes.
Boeing 737s operated by passenger airlines carry modest amounts of cargo, but are a useful alternative to all-cargo carriers for shippers with small loads looking to get a quick delivery and save money.