American Airlines Will Send Their Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft Back Into Regular Service During Q1/2021

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American Airlines has announced that they will push their Boeing 737 Max back into service as the aircraft has regained it’s FAA certification and the aircraft will enter regular passenger schedules after January 4th.

Until January the carrier will perform additional flights within the U.S. which AA employees can access while their roughly 2,600 Boeing 737 pilots will complete the FAA-mandated and approved training procedures.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since spring of 2019 and as we’re nearing 2021 that means these planes have spent pretty much 2 years on the ground, causing massive losses (although the demand for flights was low during the current pandemic either way).

American has a great number of 737 Max, a plane type the carrier ordered in foresight to phase out their older MD80 (Super 80) aircraft but then the tragedies surrounding the MAX foreshadowed what would become of all these planes that have already been delivered in the years to come.

American as per their news release is now preparing to return them to service.

… [That] focus has also guided us through the recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX. Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the 737 MAX to fly again following its grounding in March 2019. Throughout the 20-month recertification process, we worked closely with the FAA and Boeing, in addition to our union leaders and their safety teams, and are grateful for everyone’s diligence. …

We know that restoring our customers’ confidence in this aircraft will come with time and importantly, transparency and flexibility. If a customer doesn’t want to fly on the 737 MAX, they won’t have to. Our customers will be able to easily identify whether they are traveling on one even if schedules change. If a customer prefers to not fly on this aircraft, we’ll provide flexibility to ensure they can be easily re-accommodated.

In terms of next steps, we are taking a phased approach to return the aircraft to service. We will begin with non-commercial flights in early December before the official return to service date to demonstrate that the 737 MAX is as safe as every plane we fly at American. On‌ Dec.‌ 29, we will resume scheduled service with two flights a day — or one round trip from MIA to LGA — through‌ Jan.‌ 4. After that, we expect to gradually phase more 737 MAX aircraft into revenue service throughout January, with up to 36 departures from our Miami hub depending on the day of the week. Ahead of our commercial flights, interested team members will also have the opportunity to fly on the 737 MAX. We’ll share more on those plans and provide additional information to support you soon.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has worked on the recertification efforts over this nearly two-year journey and to those who will see us through the next few weeks as we prepare for commercial service. As is always the case, safety is at the forefront of every decision we make. It’s with this unequivocal standard that we look forward to returning the 737 MAX to service.

I find this a rather fascinating development from an execution perspective. American will put the 737 MAX back on regular routes as non-commercial flights but is offering American Airlines employees to fly on these routes, likely in an effort to build public trust.

Once the aircraft are then finally back “on the road” passengers will be put on them but there is a designator (as it has always been, maybe a bit more bold then before for easier identification but don’t expect blinking lights) what aircraft the flight will be operated with. If the type shows as 737 MAX the passenger can change his flight free of charge.

This will take place in Q1/2021 from what I can see in this announcement.

Airlines now face a two-folded problem. Following the certification they now have to take the undelivered aircraft from the manufacturer (Boeing) and pay for them. This was put on ice while the 737 MAX wasn’t airworthy but once the plane is in the clear again Boeing can deliver the re-calibrated models. At the same time many passengers might be unwilling to fly on this aircraft, be it a reasonable sentiment or not.

Over time Boeing has very little choice other than renaming the MAX and move on with it, hoping a random generic model number like 737-8 or 737-9 without the obvious MAX moniker will let people forget what type of aircraft they’re actually flying on. Let’s keep in mind that the public doesn’t know any more about planes than what can be read in newspapers and is shown on TV.

Conclusion

It was clear that American and other airlines who have invested hundreds of millions in these planes won’t just shelve and then dispose them like old bread. And there is no reason for that. The 737 MAX is the most scrutinized aircraft of it’s time, probably ever at this point. Of course all of this was Boeing’s own doing considering their conduct prior and throughout this entire matter.

Passengers who are now fearful of using the 737 MAX again will have (at least for now) the option of circumventing the aircraft but this might come with inconveniences of inconvenient scheduling, free changes or not. I believe this will eventually wane and passengers will get back on these flights but history has shown that similar events like with the DC-10 can very well be the end of a certain plane type.

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