Southwest Airlines announced in an email that it’s suspending Boeing 737 Max flights through much of the busy summer travel season. The announcement will ground the troubled planes until August 5, two months longer than initially planned.
“Our Teams are working to further increase the reliability of our schedule and reduce the amount of last-minute flight changes – especially during the upcoming summer travel season. With that in mind, we’ve now modified our schedule through August 5, 2019, to add further stability for Customers booking their summer travel,” read the email.
It also said that “the limited number of Customers who have already booked their travel and will be affected by this amended schedule are being proactively notified so that we can re-accommodate their flight plans well in advance of their travel date.”
American Airlines made a similar call to remove the MAX 8 from its schedule through June 5 forcing it to cancel flights.
The FAA grounded the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in March after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight. The preliminary report on the accident indicated that the crash mirrored the crash of a Lion Air flight just months earlier. In both cases, investigators believe a faulty sensor triggered automatic systems meant to keep the plane from stalling. Pilots were then unable to stop the nose pushing downward.
Southwest has 34 of the Max aircraft in its fleet, more than any other airline. The Max already had been removed from Southwest’s schedule through June 7. While they make up only 5% of their fleet, the grounding is yet another major disruption to Southwest’s scheduled service. The carrier and its mechanics union had been locked in a years-long contract fight when mechanics began pulling more planes out of service in mid-February.