American said in October it would return the jets to commercial service in January 2020. Southwest was to resume service in February. American’s new target date is March 5, followed a day later by Southwest.
“Once the aircraft is certified [by the Federal Aviation Administration], American expects to run exhibition flights, or flights for American team members and invited guests only, prior to March 5,” American said Friday in a statement on its website. Southwest, which has more of the jets than any U.S. airline, said in a separate statement that “based on continued uncertainty around the timing of MAX return to service, the Company soon plans to proactively remove the MAX from its flight schedule through March 6, 2020.”
In March, it will have been almost a year since authorities grounded the jets following two crashes that claimed 346 lives. As FreightWaves has reported, Boeing has since made changes to its flight control software to address regulators’ concerns.
Both airlines’ new target dates for returning the jets to service are pending Boeing’s completion of work to resolve the safety issues and federal regulators’ verification that the work has been adequately performed, CNN reported Friday.
Both airlines are canceling a number of flights in response to the delay and working to rebook passengers.
A source told CNN that missing information from Boeing for an FAA audit of the company’s fixes to the jet delayed the agency’s completion of the audit and, therefore, delayed additional tests of the software.