United Airlines said Friday it has extended cancellations of Boeing 737 Max flights through early June, as officials work to meet Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements and return the embattled aircraft to the skies.
The Chicago-based carrier had previously grounded 737 Max flights through early March. With the extension, United has canceled flights involving the aircraft for the longest period of any U.S. airline that has the 737 Max in its fleet.
“With the MAX return to service date still unknown, pushing our timeline back to early June is what is best for our customers and our operation," United spokesman Frank Benenati said. "By moving the return to service date back more than just a month — as we have done previously throughout 2019 — it allows us to have more certainty by providing our customers and our operation a firmer and more definitive timeline,”
The FAA grounded the Boeing 737 Max aircraft last March after the aircraft model was involved in two deadly crashes in less than a year. The fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 passengers and crew.
Safety officials cited a software defect as the likely cause of the crashes. Boeing has faced mounting scrutiny in recent months amid reports that airline executives may have misled the FAA about its knowledge of the software issues.
Earlier this month, Boeing indefinitely suspended production of the 737 Max. It’s unclear when the aircraft could return to service.
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, the two other U.S. carriers that use the 737 Max, have removed flights involving the aircraft through early April, according to Reuters.