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Boeing 737 Max may not return to service until August: IATA head

Key Points
  • The International Air Transport Association expects it could take until August before the Boeing 737 Max returns to service, the airline group's head said.
  • The IATA added that the final say on the timing rested with regulators.
  • The 737 Max was grounded globally in March after a crash in Ethiopia killed all 157 people on board, the model's second deadly crash in five months.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects it could take until August before the Boeing 737 Max returns to service, the airline group's head said on Wednesday, adding that the final say on the timing rested with regulators.

The 737 Max was grounded globally in March after a crash in Ethiopia killed all 157 people on board, the model's second deadly crash in five months.

"We do not expect something before 10 to 12 weeks in re-entry into service," IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac told reporters in Seoul. "But it is not our hands. That is in the hands of regulators."

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded, at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California on March 28, 2019.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

IATA plans to organize a summit with airlines, regulators and Boeing in 5 to 7 weeks to discuss what is needed for the 737 Max to return to service, he said.

The airline industry has had a tough six months with fuel, labour and infrastructure costs increasing and trade tensions rising in addition to the 737 Max grounding, de Juniac said.

IATA's December forecast for $35.5 billion in industry profits in 2019 is expected to be lowered in an update at its annual meeting in Seoul on June 2.

At an IATA meeting for 737 Max operators in Montreal last week, airline members said they wanted regulators to cooperate closely on the decision for the plane's re-entry to service, de Juniac said.

"We hope that they will align their time frame," he said of regulators.

The Federal Aviation Administration expects to approve the jet's return to service as soon as late June, representatives of the U.S. air regulator informed members of the United Nations' aviation agency in a private briefing last week, sources told Reuters.

U.S. operators United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines have removed the planes from their flight schedules until early to mid August.

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