Drip, Drip, Drip: American Pushes Out the Return of the 737 MAX to Service Again

The return of the 737 MAX is like every other delay on American Airlines. You show up at the gate before scheduled departure time, because the flight board says you’re leaving on time. But there’s no aircraft at the gate, so that’s impossible.

The plane pulls up, passengers flood out into the terminal, and you stand there waiting. American updates your new departure time, but it isn’t until after that time passes that the departure time gets updated again. You have a mechanical delay and American keeps pushing your scheduled departure out 10 minutes at a time, updating with a new time only after the last one passes.

Maybe that’s why it’s hard to feel sorry for American that their fleet plans have gone haywire with the grounding of the 737 MAX (that, and that American’s CEO has said he expects Boeing’s shareholders to bear the full cost of the grounding, not American).

Month by month by month American pushes back the return of the 737 MAX to service. So does Southwest and so does Untied, but of whom operate the aircraft as well.

American just announced their next anticipated return date: April 7.

  • They’ll cancel schedule flights to handle this change on December 22
  • Some folks who would have flown the MAX will see their flights cancelled. Others flights will just be operated by Boeing 737-800s (or other aircraft), meaning flights that would have been operated by those planes will be cancelled.
  • If you want to guess whether or not a flight will be cancelled, the best guide is whether it’s to or from New York JFK.

Previous return to service dates were March 5; January 16; December 4; November 3; September 4; August 20; and June 6. With new boarding time after new boarding time return to service dates like these you’d think that it was American’s operations center – and not Boeing and the FAA – that were driving the recertification process!

American is cutting their least profitable flights and the grounding of the MAX may actually be helping their bottom line.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. “The return of the 737 MAX is like every other delay on American Airlines. You show up at the gate before scheduled departure time, because the flight board says you’re leaving on time.”

    That’s brilliant!

  2. @ Daniel — Actually, the comparison of the MAX delays to “normal” AA delays is a cheap shot — which is sadly typical of much of Gary’s writing, The two are not remotely comparable. AA, to some extent, has control over its regular schedule. When a flight is late, it is arguably the airline’s “fault” (weather, ATC etc. and other factors can be beyond the airline’s control, but you get the idea). The MAX delays are clearly NOT AA’s fault whatsoever. I guess Gary could make the argument that AA shouldn’t even bother scheduling MAX aircraft for any future flights at this point. After all, Boeing and the FAA have proven to be entirely unreliable in getting the plane recertified. But that doesn’t seem like a particularly brilliant plan to me. What AA is doing — making a reasonable guess and cancelling flights 4 months in advance when/if circumstances change — seems like a pretty reasonable approach to the problem. Do you disagree, Gary, or is this just a cheap shot?

  3. Not just a cheap shot but actually it’s a silly comparison. Equally silly is the assertion that “every other delay at American…” follows step by step, the alleged routine.
    Another year has passed without the coveted concierge key, so the attempts to blog AA into submission, will continue.

  4. Well said Chopsticks! American’s responsible planning/reaction to the MAX continued delay is seen by Gary as a chance to bring up old gripes and create a blog post out of nothing but hyperbole. What is any airline supposed to do when Boeing/FAA can’t provide any good predictability on the return of the MAX? It’s so easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback when you risk nothing. Also, I find American’s updates on flight delays to be as good as any airline.

  5. Typical Gary cheap shot at AA. Your didn’t state it in this blog but the story in USA Today about AA pushing out date for return of the 737 Max also stated that both Southwest and United still had them returning to service in March. IMHO AA is ahead of the curve here. They are just a punching bag for you and the many people in your echo chamber on here. As for the “drip, drip, drip” it is likely the 737 Max WILL return to service in the spring or early summer so pushing out the date a month at a time makes sense. We are getting closer, even if many of you don’t like it, to having the Max back in scheduled service

  6. chopsticks: Dec 22 is not 4 months out. It’s next week. I suspect that is exactly what Gary is pointing at. If they were cancelling four months it there wouldn’t be a complaint.

  7. Most dispassionate observers would have concluded more than 6 months ago that it would be at least a year before the MAX would be back (*IF EVER *). Every timeframe suggested by AA has been ludicrously optimistic ( whatever the reasons, for they themselves would have been well aware of it..). April? Not a hope in hell….

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