Chicago-based United flies 14 of the Max jets, which the Federal Aviation Administration grounded following two recent fatal accidents involving the aircraft. The airline had been using other planes to avoid canceling the flights, but said the approaching summer travel season was making it more challenging to continue the strategy.
“During this period, we’ll continue to take extraordinary steps to protect our customers’ travel plans,” a United spokesperson told FOX Business. “Moving forward, we’ll continue to monitor the regulatory process and nimbly make the necessary adjustments to our operation and our schedule to benefit our customers who are traveling this summer.”
Elsewhere in the industry, American said on Sunday it is extending cancellations for Boeing 737 Max aircraft through Aug. 19. The airline, which flies 24 of the Max jet, said 115 flights will be canceled, which represents 1.5 percent of American’s totally flying each day this summer.
In a message to team members, American CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom said they are “highly confident” the Max will be recertified prior to the August date. The expanded cancellations, however, will be for planning purposes during the summer travel period, when airlines carry large numbers of passengers.
“We can plan more reliably for the peak travel season and provide confidence to our customers and team members when it comes to their travel plans,” the executives said in their message. “Once the MAX is recertified, we anticipate bringing our MAX aircraft back on line as spares to supplement our operation as needed during the summer.”
The announcement marks the third time since the federally mandated grounding that American has extended cancellations. Last Sunday it said it would continue the cancellations through early June, and prior to that made an announcement in late March.
The FAA ordered airlines to ground the Boeing jet after two fatal crashes involving the aircraft. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed last month killing 157 people, and in October, a Lion Air Max jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia killing 189 people.
FAA officials met with representatives from American, United and Southwest Airlines and their pilot unions last Friday to gain a better understanding of safety issues related to the Max jets. Southwest announced last week it would extend cancellations of Max aircraft until Aug. 5. United has suspended flights on the aircraft through early June.
Boeing continues to work on changes to the Max’s flight-control software, known as MCAS, which was designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling. That system was linked to the Ethiopian and Lion Air crashes.
The plane-maker said earlier this month it would cut production of the Max to 42 aircraft per month from the current 52 per month.