Southwest, American Airways push back MAX return until finally March

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX interior

American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) has pushed back the planned return of Boeing's (NYSE:BA) beleaguered 737 Max plane to its schedule to March 5.

The 737 Max, Boeing's best-selling plane, has been grounded since March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

Aside from that, the Southwest and American, had also been taking heavy hits in to their profits as they had to grapple with a growing number of passengers during holiday seasons with slimmer fleets. Southwest and American, the two largest United States operators of the aircraft, have had to scale back growth plans and are together canceling more than 300 flights a day, taking a hit to profits as they manage slimmer fleets without the 737 MAX.

United Airlines and American Airlines, the other two USA operators of the jet, have cancelled their 737 Max flights into January. Southwest, the largest operator of Boeing's best-selling plane, last month pulled the aircraft from its schedule through February 8.

The CEO of American Airlines, a major Boeing customer, said he is growing more confident that the Max will soon be approved to fly again. In its 10Q SEC filing, Southwest said it was expecting a fourth-quarter Federal Aviation Administation approval to return the planes after upgrades to its systems and pilot retraining.

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One of the issues raised by FAA regulators is that Boeing presented the MCAS documentation in a similar format as it had been in the past, but officials wanted it in a different form.

The Boeing (NYSE:BA) loss was the largest contributor to the Dow's small decline on Friday.

Just two days ago, American Chief Executive Doug Parker said he was hopeful that the aircraft would "get certified in the near future".

It is the largest customer of the aircraft in the U.S. with 34 in its fleet and 200 orders pending when air authorities made the decision not to allow the planes to fly in the wake of the two fatal accidents.

As a result of the extended cancellations, Southwest said it was unable to provide an update on first-quarter capacity guidance at this time.

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