Southwest pulls Boeing 737 Max until June as airlines dig in for longer delays

Southwest pulls Boeing 737 Max until June as airlines dig in for longer delays
  • Southwest joins United and American in pulling the Boeing 737 Max from their schedules until June.
  • The plane's return has been delayed by months and Boeing now recommends simulator training for pilots before the aircraft return to service.

Southwest Airlines on Thursday said it doesn't expect the Boeing 737 Max to be included in its flight schedule until early June, following similar moves by American and United, and amid the likelihood that pilots will have to be trained on simulators before the jets return.

The problem has worsened for carriers because they expected Boeing to deliver more jets that would have added to their fleets at the time of the grounding last March. Regulators, who ordered airlines to stop flying the planes then after two fatal crashes in a span of less than five months killed 346 people, have repeatedly said they have no firm timeline to approve the planes again for commercial flights.

Boeing earlier this month said it would recommend pilots undergo simulator training before airlines start flying the planes again, a process that could further delay the Max's return to service and one that promises to add to Boeing's costs.

Southwest, which operates an all Boeing 737 fleet — mostly older models — last month reached a compensation agreement with Boeing over the grounding but it could still receive more as the flight ban wears on.

Southwest is pulling the planes through June 6, an effort to “reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions.” The Dallas-based carrier plans to remove 330 weekday flights from its peak-day schedules of more than 4,000 flights, 50 more flights than when it expected to have the planes back in service by early April.