Grounding of Boeing Jets Complicates Southwest, United Planning

The airlines will have to deal with more cancellations and fewer scheduled flights.

Grounded Boeings Ap 5d2c80eb22ad2
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

DALLAS and CHICAGO (AP) — Southwest Airlines is again pushing back the date it expects to be able to fly the grounded Boeing 737 Max jet, meaning more flight cancellations. Southwest said Thursday that it was taking the plane out of its schedule through November 2, a month longer than before. 

Without the plane, Southwest says it will drop about 180 flights a day from its schedule, up from 150. The plane was grounded after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. It's not clear when it will be cleared to fly after Boeing makes fixes to flight-control software. 

Southwest had 34 Max jets when the plane was grounded in March, and the airline expected to receive more as the year went on, but Boeing halted deliveries.

The grounding of Boeing 737 Max airplanes is also making it harder for United Airlines to plan for next year. United Chief Financial Officer Gerry Laderman told analysts on a conference call Wednesday that they can assume that United won't get all the Max jets it was expecting from Boeing through next year. 

Executives said the airline will grow at a slightly slower pace than it planned next year as a result. United expected to have 30 Max jets in its fleet by now and to receive another 28 next year. Boeing is still working on flight-control software that erroneously pushed the noses of the two accident planes down.

United has nearly 800 planes in its fleet, not counting smaller jets used by United Express. The Chicago-based airline recently agreed to buy 19 used Boeing 737s, but Laderman said that was unrelated to the loss of the Max planes.

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