U.S. Joins Rest of World in Grounding All Boeing 737 MAX Jets

by Daniel McCarthy
U.S. Joins Rest of World in Grounding All Boeing 737 MAX Jets

Southwest Airlines operated the largest fleet of Boeing 737 MAX Jets. Photo: Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.com.

All Boeing 737 MAX Jets have been immediately grounded in the U.S. following an executive order by President Trump on Wednesday, the same day that Canada’s transportation minister grounded all of the MAX Jets in that country.

The grounding comes three days after 157 people were killed when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed in Ethiopia, the second time a jet of that model had crashed. The first crash came less than five months before that when a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff. Both were new aircrafts.

With the order, all of Boeing’s 737 MAX Jets, which is the best-selling model for Boeing (72 percent of Boeing's 2018 deliveries were 737 planes), have been grounded in the U.S., Canada, India, and all of Europe.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had earlier in the day supported keeping the aircraft in operation, issuing a statement that “no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”

The FAA only changed course after data came in from the Ethiopian crash, it said.

“It became clear the track was very close and behaved similarly to the Lion Air flight,” FAA Administration David Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. Though Elwell said there is no timetable for lifting the stoppage, he hopes to keep it “as short as possible."

 “I can’t and I don’t want to hazard a guess as to how long. My hope is that the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturer, that all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible so that these airplanes can get back up into the sky,"

How it impacts travel
With a storm in the Midwest and the impact of the grounding halting flights all over the country on Wednesday, advisors are scrambling to get clients rebooked on flights.

According to FlightAware, there has already been close to 3,000 cancellations across U.S. airports on Wednesday, with most coming from airlines impacted by the grounding including Southwest (440 flights), United (333), and American Airlines (193).

Americans Airlines, which has 24 aircrafts impacted by the order, said in a statement that it is rebooking all of its passengers “as quickly as possible.”

“The safety and security of our customers and team members remains our top priority. While we continue to have the utmost confidence in the safety of our aircraft and the professionalism and experience of our crews, we will of course abide by the FAA’s directive," it said in a statement.

Southwest has the biggest fleet of the model with 34 in operation, thought it said in a statement that, in total, the aircraft accounts for less than five percent of its daily volume. It is currently in the process of operating its schedule “with every available in our fleet” and said it would waive all cancellation and rebooking fees for impacted passengers.

Air Canada is issuing a full fee waiver for its affected customers and said in a statement that “we are to rebooked impacted customers as soon as possible.” However, because of the “magnitude of our 737 MAX operations which on average carry nine to twelve thousand customers per day, customers can expect delays in rebooking and in reaching Air Canada call centres and we appreciate our customers' patience."

United Airlines, which had a schedule of roughly 40 flights a day with the MAX jets, said it does not impact a “signification operational impact as a result of the order.”

“We will continue to work with our customers to help minimize any disruption to their travel,” it said in a statement.

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