American Airlines has chosen to keep its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX grounded until at least August 19, even if it means canceling 115 flights a day in summer season, as probes into the troubled jet continue and new sales have frozen.
The company, which owns 24 of the embattled jets that were involved in two recent deadly crashes, announced the decision in a letter to employees and customers. AA wants to ensure reliability “for the peak travel season and provide confidence to our customers and team members when it comes to their travel plans,” Chief Executive Doug Parker and President Robert Isom wrote.
The 737 MAX 8 airliners were grounded worldwide after a fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight, which killed 157 people on board. The incident came months after a crash of the same model operated by Lion Air was apparently linked to the same faulty flight control system.
Parker and Isom have at the same time expressed confidence in Boeing’s ability to fix the problem through software updates and changes to pilot training procedures. The US airline has 24 MAX planes in its fleet and is expected to get 16 more delivered this year. The grounding has already resulted in the cancelation of about 90 flights per day through early June, and the extension may put a strain on American’s ability to meet demand for seats during upcoming peak travel season. As many as 115 daily flights will have to be canceled in August, according to the letter.
The crashes have left Boeing open to criticism over the way it certified the fast-selling model, conducting some of the tests in-house with the permission of the Federal Aviation Authority. Critics say the producer cut corners to fast-track the new model to the market, compromising flight safety as a result.