Southwest and American will go without the Boeing 737 Max until April

Key Points
  • Southwest extended cancellations from the grounding until April 14.
  • The planes have been grounded since March 2019, after two crashes killed 346 people.
  • Boeing is halting production of the planes next month because of the prolonged flight ban.
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Southwest Airlines on Tuesday joined American Airlines in canceling thousands of Boeing 737 Max flights into part of April, as the beleaguered jetliner's return to service disrupts schedules during the busy spring break and Easter vacation periods.

The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since mid-March after two fatal crashes in a span of five months killed 346 people. The Federal Aviation Administration said last week it doesn't expect to finish its review of the planes by the end of the year, and then publicly admonished Boeing for saying the jets could be approved before Jan. 1.

Less than a week later, Boeing said it would suspend production of the 737 Max, its bestseller, starting next month, as the grounding wears on. A Southwest spokesman said the decision to cancel more flights was already in the works and not in response to Boeing's announcement.

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Southwest, the largest U.S. 737 Max customer, said Tuesday it will pull about 300 flights a day from its weekday schedule of about 4,000 flights through April 13 because of the flight ban. U.S. carriers are increasingly betting the ban will leave them without the fuel-efficient planes for more than a full year.

Last week, Southwest said it reached a compensation agreement with Boeing over the Max grounding, which it has said cost the carrier $435 million in operating income this year through the third quarter. Southwest didn't disclose the terms but said it plans to share $125 million with employees. Southwest had 34 of the planes in its fleet when the FAA grounded them in mid-March but was supposed to get more than 40 more by the end of this year.

Southwest's schedule change comes less than a week after a similar move by American Airlines through April 7, and indicates it doesn't expect to have the plane back in service for the busy spring break and Easter periods. United Airlines, which also has the 737 Max in its fleet cut the plane from its schedules until March but further changes are possible.

Icelandair on Tuesday pulled the planes from its schedule until May 2020 and said it will rent older 737 planes to make up for the shortfall in aircraft and keep more of its aging 757s in its fleet longer than planned.

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