Southwest cancellations rising due to grounded Boeing jet

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Southwest Airlines is again pushing back the date it expects to be able to fly the grounded Boeing 737 Max jet, meaning more flight cancellations.

Southwest said Thursday that it is taking the plane out of its schedule through Nov. 2, a month longer than previously planned.

Without the plane, Southwest said it will drop about 180 flights a day—about 4.5% of its normal schedule—up from 150 a day.

Southwest is also delaying the addition of new pilots as a result of the Max grounding.

The airline told pilots last week that it was postponing two classes for new-pilot training and two for pilots upgrading to captain. The classes were to begin in September, October and December.

A spokesman for United said Thursday that the airline continues to conduct classes for new pilots. A spokeswoman for American Airlines said the Max is not affecting its hiring or training plans. Last month, however, Icelandair said it would lay off 24 pilots and cancel plans to hire 21 more because of the grounding.

The plane has been grounded worldwide since mid-March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

Boeing originally expected to submit a final recertification plan to U.S. regulators in late March. The plane’s return, however, has been pushed back several times, most recently after FAA pilots found a new flaw while testing Boeing software changes in a flight simulator.

That discovery prompted Boeing to say in late June that it expected to present its proposed fix to the FAA “in the September timeframe.” FAA approval, new training for pilots—the exact nature of which hasn’t been determined — and checking jets that have been parked will take several more weeks. Some analysts believe the plane won’t fly again until 2020.

Boeing is still building Max jets, although at a reduced pace, but it halted deliveries of completed planes in March.

The longer the situation lasts, the more flights per day will be dropped. In March, Southwest had 34 Max jets—the most of any airline— and expected to get more as the year went on. The Dallas-based carrier has about 750 planes. All are various types of Boeing 737s.

Boeing said Thursday it is booking a $4.9 billion charge to cover possible compensation to airlines that have canceled thousands of flights since the 737 Max jet was grounded after two deadly accidents.

The airplane builder also said the Max-related fallout will cut $5.6 billion from its revenue and pre-tax earnings in the April-through-June quarter.

The Chicago-based company said the calculations were based on an assumption that regulatory approval for the plane’s return to flying will begin early in the fourth quarter.

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