United gives up on flying 737 Max during summer travel season

Returning grounded jetliner to service still Boeing's top priority

United Airlines doesn’t expect to fly Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft anytime soon.

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The carrier, which previously took the beleaguered jetliner off its schedules until June, said it probably won't operate the aircraft until the fall, now that Boeing is predicting regulators won't sign off on a necessary software fix until mid-summer.

“At this point, we're assessing the impact of the schedule, but we do not anticipate flying the Max this summer,” Andrew Nocella, chief commercial officer, said on United’s fourth-quarter conference call.

Rivals American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have delayed the aircraft's return until June at the earliest. Boeing previously expected the aircraft to return to the skies in the fourth quarter of last year.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
UALUNITED AIRLINES HLDG.78.01-1.90-2.38%
AALAMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.27.82-0.69-2.42%
LUVSOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO.56.53-0.41-0.72%
BABOEING COMPANY330.38-5.90-1.75%

"Returning the Max safely to service is our No. 1 priority, and we are confident that will happen," the company said in its Tuesday statement. "We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 Max has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers and the flying public."

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after two deadly crashes that killed all 346 people aboard. The fallout led to the resignation of CEO Dennis Muilenberg and has caused parts suppliers like Spirit Aerosystems and General Electric to lay off workers.

On Tuesday evening, United reported a fourth-quarter profit of $641 million, or $2.53 a share, as revenue rose nearly 4 percent to $10.9 billion.

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United shares are down 2.6 percent this year, lagging the S&P 500’s 3.1 percent gain.