Boeing's 737 Max set to return to US skies after 20-month ban

American Airlines to resume 737 Max service on December 29 with round trips between Miami and New York

A worker wears a Santa hat as travelers wearing protective masks board an American Airlines Group Inc. flight at LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will strictly enforce quarantine rules for all travelers arriving in the city during the holidays, particularly those from the U.K., where a highly contagious new Covid-19 strain has been detected. Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

American Airlines is set to resume passenger flights on Boeing's 737 Max on Tuesday for the first time since US aviation regulators lifted a 20-month ban on the embattled jet.

The carrier will operate two flights a day, or a round trip, between Miami and New York on December 29 through to January 4.

"We expect to phase more of the aircraft into our schedule through January, with up to 36 departures from Miami," American Airlines said in a statement.

The jet will return to US skies for the first time since the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted the safety ban in November. However, American Airlines will not be the first carrier to operate the 737 Max on a commercial flight, with Brazil's Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes resuming passenger services on December 9.

American Airlines' 737 pilots will complete the FAA-approved training, including computer-based training, classroom briefings and rigorous simulator training, it said on its website. Passengers will be able to identify if they are flying on a 737 Max and can re-book on a different flight free of charge if they prefer not to fly on the jet.

Last week, an Air Canada Boeing 737-8 Max on a test flight encountered engine issues that forced the crew to shut down one of its engines and make an emergency landing in Tucson, Arizona, according to Aviation24.be.

Boeing's best-selling narrow-body workhorse is returning to the skies after the fleet was grounded globally in March 2019 following two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed a total of 346 people.

A new poll by Reuters and Ipsos showed that 77 per cent of Americans who were aware of the crashes knew it was a Boeing jet and 66 per cent knew it was the 737 Max model.

When respondents were told about the aircraft’s safety issues, 26 per cent said they were willing to fly in a Boeing 737 Max, while 37 per cent said they would be likely to fly in it once it has been in the air for six months or more.

The FAA plans to reform its process for certifying new aircraft in line with legislation passed by the US Congress following the two plane crashes, it said on Monday.

Sweeping reforms were signed into law on Sunday by US President Donald Trump that boosts FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturers, requires disclosure of critical safety information and provides new whistleblower protections, Reuters reported.

US airlines will also receive $15 billion to pay aviation workers under the Payroll Support Programme.

“Extending the Payroll Support Programme will provide a lifeline to the tens of thousands of airline workers who have been furloughed and the communities that have lost air service since the programme expired in October,” said Roger Wicker, a US senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“Widespread access to our air transportation network is essential to economic growth. These additional funds will be critical to helping our economy recover as we get through the pandemic," he said in a statement.

The funds will provide assistance through to  March 31, 2021 as part of a massive $900bn Covid-19 pandemic relief bill.

NEWSLETTERS