American Airlines Grounds Their Boeing 737 MAXs Another Two Months

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has said the only thing keeping the Boeing 737 MAX out of the skies is politics. However since then there have been new issues discovered with the aircraft.

I wrote late last month that you should expect American to push back the 737 MAX’s return to their schedule in mid-July because that’s when they need to send out crew bid schedules for September flying.

Like clockwork then American has pushed back the MAX’s return another two months to November 2, leading the airline to push about 115 flight cancellations per day out further.

  • Just because the flight you bought wasn’t on a MAX, doesn’t mean it’s not being cancelled — your flight could be cancelled in order to free up an aircraft that was supposed to operate on a MAX route.

  • Just because the fight you bought was scheduled to be operated by a MAX doesn’t mean it was cancelled, you may have gotten moved to a different flight automatically or your flight may have just been given a different plane.

American Airlines has plenty of aircraft of course, they’ve just chosen to continue with the planned retirement of their MD80 fleet despite being down 24 planes due to the MAX grounding.

When the aircraft does come back recertification appears as though it will be done by the FAA in conjunction with other international safety agencies. The planes will need to be prepped to return, and there will be re-training of pilots required. Expect to see top airline executives flying the aircraft as soon as it’s allowed.

The plane could be re-certified before November 2, but the airline will need time to complete required procedures after that. And once again they need to send out packets for employees to bid on schedules that either will or won’t include the MAX. What the November 2 date says to me is that American is pretty sure the plane won’t be ready to fly in revenue service at the beginning of October. They cannot guarantee of course that they won’t push back the aircraft’s return date again.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. ” Expect to see top airline executives flying the aircraft as soon as it’s allowed.”

    I sure hope that the joint aviation agencies will not allow top airline executives to fly the MAX jets when they return to service. I would not want to be on a plane flown by Ed, Doug, or Oscar!

  2. I wish no Max would ever fly again. I don’t think people will ever fully trust this aircraft.

  3. Plowing ahead with the retirement of the MD-80/88 seems short sighted. Having excess capacity in the system is a good thing. Trying to just-in-time capacity is a recipe for chaos.

    Better to have and not need than need and not have.

    This is beginning to sound like a slow motion train wreck, similar to the problems Alaska had last summer. Recall that Alaska carries a lot of small market traffic via Horizon Air (QX). Horizon saw a pilot shortage coming and didn’t react strongly or quickly enough. Not enough Dash-8 pilots caused cancellations which causes a summer of chaos for Alaska. It was a problem everybody seemed to see coming … except for the folks in a position to fix the problem.

  4. I still struggle to see how this plane will ever be certified to fly again. It’s the first mass commercial aircraft that has been designed against usual rules of flight.

    It has to be totally redesigned, and I’m not sure why the airlines arent seeing this, and why Boeing still maintains they can make ‘corrections’.

    I predict further delays, a cull of senior Boeing staff, an admission this plane will never fly again, and the eventual release of a new model.

    All that compensation to airlines won’t be cheap…

  5. It wasn’t that long ago that the 787 was shut down due to battery fires. Completely taken out of service. How would the public ever want to fly that aircraft?

    Today they’re flying all over the world, with airlines continuing to order more and more of them. No mention of safety at all anymore. We look back at that now as only a memory but there are a lot of parallels.

  6. Doug’s comments amaze me. As CEO of AA, is he not clued into the discussions and going-ons that determine how and when the MAX will be re-certified? Or is he getting some other pressure to make these statements?

    Worldwide, there are four civil aviation authorities that matter most in this context. Each represent the countries in which major commercial airliners are produced. They are the FAA (US,) EASA (European Union, inclusive of UK,) Transport Canada (self-evident,) and ANAC (Brazil.) You could argue that Japan, China, and Russia’s authorities also matter given the above criteria, but when we talk about the brunt of airlines flying in the world today, they are not (yet) from Mitsubishi, COMAC, or UAC.

    Given the sensitivity in this, you can imagine that all of the worlds’ regulators are working together, and that no one is going to jump ahead of any of the others in claiming the MAX is ready to fly again. But to suggest that the MAX is ready and that the interactions between these agencies boil down to mere “politics” is crass and wrong.

    Let’s just have a modicum of faith that the people who work to uphold the safety of our favorite transport medium care about what they do, and that these folks recognize that no one has all the answers, and that people (and agencies) benefit from working together to perform an exhaustive review. When new issues are discovered, they should be run to ground. I doubt anyone (whether at agency or manufacturer) is going to disagree.

    That said, all the commentary that the MAX is dead and should/will never return is nuts. Like or hate the plane and all its foibles, the MAX is the epitome of too big to fail. To kill off the MAX is to take a hatchet to the $850B+ US aviation industry, and unlike another industry where “too big to fail” is oft quoted, aerospace manufacturing is predominantly “Main Street.” Boeing may come off as a faceless mega-corp, but I bet folks on this blog would be astonished if they could peer into the supply chain of the MAX and other airliners to really understand how deep these planes are interwoven into our economy, from large mega-corps down to mom-and-pops from mid-coast California to Western Michigan and beyond .

    In summary — no one yet knows when the plane will return. It will return–absolutely–and it will return when the world agrees it’s ready. Doug Partner’s commentary doesn’t help (and if I were him, I would seriously consider pushing back the MD-80 retirements… if the September decision was made based on a belief that the MAX would be ready by that time, then he really doesn’t have a clue.)

  7. Larry – I appreciate your point, but this is profoundly different from the 787.

    1) The 787 didn’t kill people. Repeatedly.

    2) The problem with the 787 related to the lithium ion batteries. They were able to fix that issue. The problem with the MAX is it is an inherently unstable aircraft, and they are trying to cover that up with software. They can’t fix the actual problem as it was badly designed.

    3) Boeing in 2013 did not have the culture of obfuscation that they have now. They knew that the MAX aircraft and software were faulty and let it fly. Their priorities in design were ease of approval and avoidance of simulator training, rather than rigorous respect for safety. How can we, as the public, trust this company?

    4) There were two incidents in one week, and the 787 was grounded. Meanwhile after the 2nd crash, with every other country grounding the MAX, Boeing continued to drag its feet. This delay in grounding the MAX has only worsened Boeing’s image, as it shows a company in denial.

    5) The fact that additional issues are being identified further undermines trust in Boeing and the MAX. (Nothing else came out about the 787) What else haven’t we found yet?

    I personally am happy that I fly Delta. That makes it easier to avoid this debacle of an airplane.

  8. I think it is going to fly again. Then it will crash again. Then it will be cancelled and replaced with another aircraft. But if that happens, who can trust Boeing again.

  9. @NEOflyer

    Re:to big to fail

    I understand your point and that the phrase applies to a small number of industries, but I don’t think it applies here. If the plane was to be cancelled it would for sure cause problems for those companies in the supply chain, some of which might fail. However, this is a small part of one industry rather than a big part of many industries if a bank were to fail, so could be allowed to fail, with some appropriate safeguards.

    Also, there are alternatives to this plane were it to fail (although it would lead to backlogs in other production lines/deliveries, it wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem as airlines can delay retirement of existing aircraft, switch to Airbus, other Boeing models etc; in a worst case scenario maybe Boeing would restart older 737 models, if possible, although this of course isn’t desirable).

    So – if the regulators decide this model should never fly again due to it being unstable without software assistance then we should allow that to happen.

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