Southwest Airlines extends 737 Max cancellations until April

Southwest Airlines is joining American Airlines in canceling thousands of Boeing 737 Max flights through early to mid-April, as the beleaguered jetliner’s return to service disrupts schedules during another busy holiday travel period — spring break and Easter.

Southwest, the largest U.S. 737 Max customer, said Tuesday it will pull about 300 flights a day from its weekday schedule of about 4,000 flights through April 13 because of the flight ban. U.S. carriers are increasingly betting the ban will leave them without the fuel-efficient planes for more than a full year.

The Federal Aviation Administration said last week it doesn’t expect to finish its review of the planes by the end of the year, as Boeing had expected. The planes have been grounded since mid-March after two fatal crashes in a span of five months.

Boeing announced Monday it plans to suspend production of the 737 Max, its bestseller, starting next month as the grounding wears on. A Southwest spokesman said the decision to cancel more flights was not in response to Boeing’s announcement and that it had been in the works.

Southwest’s schedule change comes less than a week after a similar move by American Airlines through April 7, and indicates it doesn’t expect to have the plane back in service for the busy spring break and Easter periods.

Last week, Southwest said it reached a compensation agreement with Boeing over the Max grounding, which it has said cost the carrier $435 million in operating income this year through the third quarter. Southwest didn’t disclose the terms but said it plans to share $125 million with employees.

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