WSJ US BusinessAmerican Airlines Resumes 737 MAX Passenger Flights

December 29, 20200
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The FAA lifted its flight ban on the MAX last month when it approved software, hardware and training changes for the jets.

Photo: LM Otero/Associated Press

American Airlines Group Inc. AAL -0.22% is putting passengers back on Boeing Co. BA 0.44% ’s 737 MAX on Tuesday for the first since the aircraft was grounded nearly two years ago following two deadly crashes.

American Flight 718 was scheduled to depart Miami International Airport at 10:32 a.m. and land at LaGuardia Airport at 1:30 p.m. American said the flight was scheduled to be mostly full and that airline President Robert Isom would be among the passengers.

The daily round-trip flights between Miami and New York are the start of American’s plans to gradually add the MAX back into service. An American spokeswoman said the airline has begun announcing aircraft types during boarding to make sure passengers are aware they will be flying on a MAX. American will also alert passengers if they’re suddenly scheduled to fly on a MAX due to a schedule change, she said.

David Seymour, American’s chief operating officer, said gradually reintroducing the MAX would help build passenger confidence and give passengers flexibility if they initially prefer to fly on other aircraft. He said in an interview earlier this month that American pilots and flight attendants are confident of the plane’s safety.

“We would have never brought the aircraft back if they were not comfortable,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and global regulators banned the MAX from passenger flights in March 2019 following two crashes in less than five months that together took 346 lives. The FAA lifted its flight ban last month when it approved a series of software, hardware and training changes for the jets.

Brazil’s GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA was the first airline in the world to resume MAX passenger service earlier this month.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it plans to reintroduce MAX flights on Feb. 11 out of hubs in Denver and Houston. Southwest Airlines Co. , which operates an all-737 fleet, is planning to resume flying passengers on the MAX in March. A spokeswoman said Southwest hadn’t yet officially scheduled flights with the aircraft.

Investigators looking at the MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia largely blamed a new flight-control system known as MCAS for pushing the planes into fatal nosedives. While the MAX was grounded, Boeing and regulators devised fixes to the system that added multiple safeguards aimed at preventing it from overpowering pilots.

Chicago-based Boeing also formulated new pilot training and revisions to flight manuals, which had previously excluded information about the flight-control system. Airline pilots must complete the training, which requires time in a flight simulator, before flying the MAX.

Boeing’s two 737 MAX 8 crashes and the investigation that followed ruined not just the aircraft manufacturer’s reputation but also its bottom line. WSJ’s aviation reporters break down how the scandal unfolded and explain what the flying public can expect in the future. Photo: Gary He/EPA/Shutterstock (Originally published March 9, 2020)

Write to Andrew Tangel at Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com

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