Airlines Cancel Flights Amid 737-9 Groundings

Daniel Fowkes
11 Jan 2024
· Aircraft 
· Airlines 
Alaska Airlines and United Airlines are continuing to cancel flights as they battle the mass-grounding of the Boeing 737-9.

Cancellations from two of the largest carriers based in the United States and 737-9 customers are set to continue into the weekend.

United Airlines and Alaska Airlines are currently dealing with a grounded fleet of Boeing 737-9s following an emergency Airworthiness Directive issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. This EAD ensured the planes were parked so mandatory inspections could take place.

However, the two airlines, alongside many others worldwide being impacted, have lacked clarity over the direction to head with their inspections as loose bolts are found, amongst other quality issues.

United Airlines

United Airlines remains one of the most impacted customers regarding how many units from the 737-9 have been grounded. However, the airline can also mitigate most of the operational impact thanks to other aircraft within its fleet.

The airline has commended the Network Operations Center, which has been able to shift 30 or more flights set to be operated by the 737-9 to other aircraft. As a result, the company has accommodated thousands of customers instead of leaving them stranded.

United Airlines has grounded its Boeing 737-9 fleet as it responds to an emergency airworthiness directive from the FAA amid safety concerns.
Photo credit: Dylan T

United, however, mentions there’s only so much it can do following the 737-9 groundings, and some customers will be impacted.

This week, the grounding and the battering winter weather in parts of North America have also caused operational difficulties.

United Airlines expects flight cancellations to continue to hurt them. Some companies have published dates for when they will cancel 737-9 flights up until. However, as this situation constantly evolves, these timeframes are subject to change.

Boeing has not sent revised documents to the FAA that will lead to inspections. Additionally, the FAA has said it’s in no rush to re-approve the 737-9, focusing on ensuring that once the plane re-enters service, it is the safest out there.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines joins United in the cancellation of flights across its route network following the Boeing 737-9 grounding.

However, unlike United Airlines, Alaska doesn’t have a fleet reaching nearly 1,000 units; thus, the variant’s grounding can be felt much more.

While the airline flies the Boeing 737NGs extensively, its mainline fleet moved away from Airbus before the end of 2023 to align with company ambitions. These 737NGS will likely get an all-time workout as the airline attempts to mitigate some of the impact on customers wherever possible.

Alaska says it’ll cancel between 110 to 150 daily flights until Saturday, January 13. This timeline, however, is subject to change and provided as initial guidance.

When the Boeing 737-9 incurred its incident with Alaska Airlines, the carrier was one of the first to ground the aircraft before the FAA’s Emergency Airworthiness Directive. However, Alaska was equally quick to note that it believed these aircraft could re-enter service within days.

Now, as it approaches a week following the incident involving the 737-9, these jets remain grounded, and a timeline remains unclear as the FAA focuses strictly on safety and the NTSB takes its time with the ongoing investigation.

What’s Next For The Airlines?

In a similar fashion to United Airlines, Alaska Airlines says it is currently awaiting what can be deemed final, as well as a revised Multi-Operator Message (MOM) that’ll be provided by Boeing.

The MOM will be crucial in informing those of the details surrounding the inspection to get the aircraft approved. The FAA and NTSB must complete other relevant steps before inspections are carried out.

From this point forward and with a process that’s been agreed upon in the case of Alaska Airlines, they’ll be able to deploy their maintenance technicians to inspect the type.

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