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Southwest delays return of 737 Max 8s until at least April

By Clyde Hughes
Southwest delays return of 737 Max 8s until at least April
A Southwest Airlines 737 Max 8 is seen parked at a terminal at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Mo., on March 13. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The day after Boeing announced it will suspend production of its troubled 737 Max airliners, Southwest Airlines on Tuesday again pushed back the return of its fleet until at least April.

The Dallas-based carrier said its Max 8 aircraft won't be back on the schedule until at least April 13. It and the two other U.S. carriers that fly the 737 Max -- American and United -- have already pushed back the return date several times in the last few months.

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Before Tuesday, Southwest was planning to return its Max fleet on March 6. Boeing said Monday it has paused production of the model because recertification by the Federal Aviation Administration will not happen this year, and it's unknown when it might come.

"We remain confident that, once certified by the FAA, the enhancements will support the safe operation of the Max," Southwest said in a statement. "We previously removed the Max through March 6, to offer reliability to our operation and stability for our customers."

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Southwest said the changes will remove about 300 weekday flights from its schedule during its peak-day scheduling of more than 4,000 daily flights.

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"We offer our apologies to our customers impacted by this change, and we thank them for their continued patience," it added.

Tuesday was the eighth time Southwest modified its schedule for the 737 Max 8. It owns 34 of the jetliners, more than any other U.S. airline. American has 24 Max 8s and United operates 14 Max 9s. Alaska Airlines has ordered several Max 9 aircraft but has not yet taken any deliveries of the model. United also said last month its fleet wouldn't return until at least April.

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The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March following two crashes overseas that killed 346 people. Investigators say malfunctioning anti-stall software was the major factor in both crashes, and Boeing has since been working on a fix.

Southwest said last week it has agreed to a $125 million settlement with the Chicago-based plane manufacturer to compensate for losses attributed to the Max groundings.

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