American Airlines has extended flight cancellations for services operated by its Boeing 737 Max fleet to 2 November after further setbacks in recertifying the aircraft.
Last month the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had found a “potential risk that Boeing must mitigate” when testing a software update developed by the manufacturer.
The fix was for the 737 Max’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a new feature on the aircraft that has been named as a potential factor in two crashes that killed a total of 346 people – one on a Lion Air flight in October 2018 and one on an Ethiopian Airlines service in March this year.
A total of 115 American Airlines flights per day will be cancelled until 2 November, with passengers due to be contacted by the airline to be accommodated on other services or offered a refund. It had been due to restart 737 Max operations in September.
The airline has extended cancellations caused by the grounding of the aircraft twice, but said in its latest update that it “remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 Max, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year”.
But regulators at the FAA and pilot union leaders have told The Wall Street Journal that the list of problems Boeing has to fix is growing and that it is unlikely the aircraft will return to service this year.
United Airlines has also been hit by a pause in deliveries of the 737 Max and has had to cancel 2,900 flights in October as a result.
Boeing itself has also suffered, with Saudi Arabian low-cost carrier Flyadeal cancelling an order for the 737 Max and instead choosing the Airbus A320neo.