Southwest Pushes Back Boeing 737 MAX Flights Again, This Time to Mid-April

Southwest pushes back scheduling flights on the grounded jets until mid-April - the second pushback in as many months - amid ongoing uncertainty over when the aircraft will receive the nod to fly again.
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Southwest Airlines (LUV) - Get Report on Tuesday said it was pushing back scheduling any of its flights on Boeing (BA) - Get Report 737 MAX jets until mid-April, more than a month later than previously announced, amid ongoing uncertainty over when the aircraft will receive the official nod from regulators to take to the skies again.

The airline, the biggest operator of the single-aisle jet, announced in a statement on Tuesday that it was extending the timeline to April 16 from March 6 because of “continued uncertainty” surrounding the plane’s return to the skies. Southwest had 34 of the planes on its roster when they were grounded last March.

The announcement comes a day after Boeing said it would temporarily halt production of the 737 MAX starting in January amid ongoing scrutiny by the Federal Aviation Administration and others over whether safety issues surrounding its MCAS software and how it handles sudden in-flight maneuvers have been resolved.

Southwest’s decision follows American Airlines (AAL) - Get Report, which last week said it was also taking the 737 MAX off of its flight schedules through April. United Airlines (UAL) - Get Report currently plans to resume service with the jet in early March.

Affected passengers on about 300 weekday flights will  be re-accommodated and notified, Southwest said.

The announcement is more bad news for Boeing, which has continued to face both delays and expense in trying to right the troubled 737 MAX and get it re-certified to fly. The plane was grounded worldwide in March following two fatal crashes that killed a combined 346 people and prompted the longest flying ban for a U.S. airliner ever.

Boeing said in July it had taken a $5.6 billion pretax charge to cover potential costs incurred by airline customers because of the grounding. The aircraft maker currently has some 400 737 MAX jets in storage.

Shares of Southwest were up a little over 1% at $54.90 in morning trading on Tuesday. Shares of Boeing were down 1.18% at $323.19 after falling more than 4% to $327 on Monday.