After the Federal Aviation Authority followed the rest of the world in grounding the Boeing 737 Max on Wednesday, U.S. airlines have been scrambling to readjust their schedules. United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines all have the narrow-body jets in their fleets and were busy shuttling the planes to storage facilities overnight.
FlightRadar reported the last 737 Max carrying passengers was a Southwest flight from Oakland, Calif., that landed in Newark, N.J., at about 7 p.m. Wednesday.
United (UAL) reported that just 40 of its 4,800 daily flights (or 0.8%), would be affected by the grounding — it operates 14 of the larger 737 Max 9 airliners — and that it would simply swap aircraft for those flights or rebook customers automatically.
American Airlines (AAL) reported that its 24 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes account for 85 (or 1.3%.) of its 6,700 daily trips. Customers on canceled flights will be eligible for a full refund or rebooking to their final destination.
Southwest (LUV) has 34 Boeing 737 Max 8s, making it the biggest U.S. operator of the airliner, yet the planes still account for “less than 5%” of its 4,000 daily flights. Any Southwest customer booked on a canceled Max 8 flight can rebook without additional fees or fare differences within 14 days of their original travel date.
The flying ban comes after a nearly brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff in Ethiopia on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. The same model crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia last October, killing 189 people. Boeing has maintained that the 737 Max is safe to fly, but supported the FAA’s decision on Wednesday.
“The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday. He added that Boeing is an “incredible company” working “very hard” to find an answer. New evidence showed the plane’s movement was similar to the movement in the October crash, the FAA’s Daniel K. Elwell told reporters Wednesday.
For Boeing (BA), costs are adding up in the form of canceled orders of the 737 Max and some demands for compensation from airlines whose operations have been affected. According to Axios, Boeing has more than 4,700 orders for the 737 Max on its books.
The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that pilots had contacted the FAA about concerns regarding the 737 Max 8 back in October and November, with one captain calling its flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.” The FAA disclosures found by the Dallas Morning News refer to problems with the autopilot system during ascent after takeoff, and alarming mentions of the plane suddenly nosing down. The flights and names of the airlines involved were redacted.
Meanwhile, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the Ethiopian Air crash were flown from Addis Ababa to France Thursday morning for analysis by the BEA air accident investigation agency in Paris. U.S. officials with the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board who are on site in Ethiopia had offered to help with retrieving data from the damaged black boxes, but the Ethiopian government was concerned about the potential appearance of a conflict of interest, given that Boeing is an American company.