The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed the Boeing 737-9, the currently grounded variant, to return to service after inspections occur following the necessary approvals coming through.
Airlines To Return The 737-9 To Service
The re-entry into service will impact United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, the two largest aircraft type operators, and they are eager to return the type safely to limit continued difficulties being experienced.
United Airlines has said that following the final approval, it’ll return its fleet to scheduled operations starting Sunday, January 28, 2024. An essential step in their network rebuild after what’ll end up being a three week grounding that has left passengers stranded and flights cancelled.
Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines expects its Boeing 737-9s to return to service on Friday, January 26, 2024, representing another crucial moment for the airline.
When Alaska Airlines was forced to ground the Boeing 737-9, it saw 20% of the total fleet parked. Thus, the airline could not cope with all the flight cancellations and implications. While the grounding has been deemed the right course of action, returning the aircraft to service safely has undoubtedly been a priority to help these airlines.
It’s Not Over Yet For Boeing
Despite the 737-9 finally being cleared to re-enter service with companies and thus easing some of the pressures felt at significant airlines, analysts warn that the manufacturer isn’t out of the woods yet.
Key airline executives have recently been vocal about their disappointment surrounding Boeing, the quality of the aircraft they’re putting out, and more. In an interview with NBC News, Alaska Airlines’ CEO said his disappointment and frustration has turned to anger, citing that the plane maker is better than what has transpired in the last three weeks.
Additionally, in some instances, these customers have expressed their concerns over just how their future fleet will look, with a focus on the uncertified 737-10. Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, has said internally that they’ve been planning for substantial delays for some time. These delays are expected to exceed five years, and thus, the company has been making a plan that doesn’t include the 737-10.
To cope with the losses incurred, United Airlines will look elsewhere and potentially adjust its order makeup. However, a firm decision on that front will come with time.
No Production Expansion For 737 MAX
Away from clearance to resume flying, the FAA also said it would halt Boeing’s plan to expand production of the 737 MAX as they continue responding to the ongoing investigation.
This rejection of production expansion comes as the FAA believes an increase would potentially put the accountability and full compliance part of the investigation at risk. Boeing’s request to expand production will not be approved, and additional production lines are prohibited.
The FAA says the quality control process must be thoroughly reviewed. It will approve Boeing to increase production only once satisfied with the outcome. As aircraft backlogs continue to grow, this could result in further customer delays.