June 14 (UPI) — Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it will keep its Boeing 737 Max fleet on the ground through the Labor Day weekend, mirroring a move by the only other U.S. carrier that flies the Max 8.
The airline said it’s waiting on Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration to complete software upgrades and pilot training before it clears the fleet to return. Southwest and American are the only U.S. carriers to fly the Max 8 — the model involved in two recent crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia — and United flies the Max 9. Both variants were grounded worldwide in mid-March.
“We are encouraged by the reported progress and proposed path forward for returning the aircraft to service, and we remain confident that, once certified by the FAA, the enhancements will support the safe operation of the Max,” Southwest said in a statement.
The carrier said grounding its fleet of 34 Max 8s removes about 100 flights from its daily schedule. It had previously grounded the planes until Aug. 5. United has suspended its fleet until at least early August.
“We will proactively contact all customers whose itineraries will be impacted by the revision to offer them maximum flexibility and re-accommodate them well in advance of their travel date,” the airline added.
This week, American said it’s removed all 24 of its Max 8 airliners through Labor Day, as well.
Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said last month there’s no timetable for getting the planes back into service, suggesting the fixes could take as long as a year.