In what arguably has become the photo most symbolic of the global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, … [+] nearly two dozen MAX 8s belonging to Southwest Airlines have been grounded, like all 600+ MAX planes in the world, since March 2019. (MARK RALSTON/Getty Images)
The Boeing 737 MAX received clearance from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to return to service Wednesday, 20 months after it was grounded following two deadly crashes. But don’t expect to fly on one Thursday, or next week … or likely even next month.
At the very least it will take several weeks – and more likely a month or more – for the most aggressive airline to carry out the upgrades the FAA is requiring on at least a couple or three MAXs, to get enough of their pilots retrained to fly a few MAXs as part of the carrier’s regular schedule, and to get their unionized pilots’ and flight attendants’ work schedules altered enough so that a few MAXs can be properly staffed without violating their labor contracts.
American Airlines AAL will be the first U.S. airline to bring the plane back to service — it says it will begin to operate a single Max flight a day on Dec. 29 from New York LaGuardia Airport and Miami. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines LUV , the world’s largest operator of 737s of any variety and the launch customer of the controversial MAX version, isn’t likely to begin flying any of its MAXs again until sometime this spring. That’s what Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said during an interview with the trade publication Aviation Week & Space Technology, streamed live Monday.