Southwest and American 737 MAX flights grounded until March

Southwest Airlines, which has bet its entire growth strategy on Boeing’s newest single-aisle aircraft, had previously canceled all its 737 MAX flights until Feb. 8. (Reuters)
Updated 09 November 2019

Southwest and American 737 MAX flights grounded until March

  • Southwest and American, the two largest US operators of the aircraft, have had to scale back growth plans and are together canceling more than 300 flights a day
  • Southwest has bet its entire growth strategy on Boeing’s newest single-aisle aircraft

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON: Southwest Airlines and American Airlines said on Friday they are extending Boeing 737 MAX cancelations until early March, just shy of the one-year anniversary of an Ethiopian Airlines crash of the jet that led to a worldwide grounding.
Southwest and American, the two largest US operators of the aircraft, have had to scale back growth plans and are together canceling more than 300 flights a day, taking a hit to profits as they manage slimmer fleets without the 737 MAX.
Southwest, which has bet its entire growth strategy on Boeing’s newest single-aisle aircraft, had previously canceled all its 737 MAX flights until Feb. 8 and now expects a return to service on March 6, though it warned that the timeline could get pushed back again.
Boeing Co. is facing increasing hurdles in obtaining approval to return the plane to service before the end of this year as it has targeted.
American said it planned to resume commercial flights on the 737 MAX on March 5, and expects to run test flights for American team members and invited guests before that date, once the aircraft is certified.
United Airlines, the other US 737 MAX operator, had thus far canceled flights into January, although it may yet have to extend that time frame.
Reuters reported this week that US and European regulators will need to return to a Rockwell Collins facility in Iowa to complete an audit of Boeing’s software documentation after regulators found gaps and substandard documents. Boeing has confirmed it must submit revised documentation.
That has thrown into question when Boeing would be able to complete a certification test flight. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it would not unground the planes until 30 days after that flight occurs.
The 737 MAX, Boeing’s best-selling plane, has been grounded since March after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.
Two US officials told Reuters it is extremely unlikely — if not impossible — that Boeing will be able to win approval to return flights to service before the end of December.
Just two days ago, American Chief Executive Doug Parker said he was hopeful that the aircraft would “get certified in the near future.”
American has estimated that the 737 MAX grounding has cut 2019 earnings by $540 million, while Southwest estimated the total hit to its earnings between January and September at $435 million.
That toll will only rise the longer the MAX remains parked. Boeing is discussing compensation with airlines but no agreement has been reached.
Southwest had 34 MAX jets at the time of the March 13 grounding and was expecting delivery of another 41 jets this year. It said on Friday it still hopes to receive seven MAX deliveries in the current quarter, with the remaining shifting into 2020.
But without clarity on the MAX timeline, Southwest said it could not update a previous forecast for first-quarter capacity to grow between 2 percent and 3 percent.


Lebanon removes banking secrecy rules to fight corruption

Updated 46 min ago

Lebanon removes banking secrecy rules to fight corruption

  • The move opens the way for investigations into bank accounts of current and former officials such as Cabinet ministers

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament approved on Thursday a law to remove decades-old banking secrecy rules in order to better fight rampant corruption that has pushed the country to the edge of economic collapse.
The move opens the way for investigations into bank accounts of current and former officials such as Cabinet ministers, legislators and civil servants, state-run National News Agency reported.
The restoration of stolen public money in the corruption-plagued nation has been a key demand of protesters who have been demonstrating since mid-October against Lebanon’s ruling elite, which they blame for widespread corruption and mismanagement.
The approval of the law came two months after the Cabinet approved a draft resolution to abolish the country’s banking secrecy laws, which have turned tiny Lebanon into the region’s Switzerland, attracting clients from around the Arab world who prized the anonymity its banks offered.
The new law gives powers to National Anti-corruption Commission and a Special Investigative Committee at the central bank to investigate bank account of officials, the report said.
For Thursday’s session, Lebanese lawmakers convened inside a Beirut theater so that they could observe social distancing measures imposed during the pandemic. Dozens of anti-government demonstrators briefly clashed with riot police outside as legislators met.
As lawmakers in face masks arrived at the theater, known as the UNESCO palace, paramedics sprayed them with disinfectant before they entered, one at a time.
Lebanon has been facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with unemployment figures soaring and the local currency losing more than half of its value against the dollar.
After the banking secrecy measure was passed, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri suspended the session until later in the afternoon when the legislators were to discuss a draft general amnesty law.
The amnesty issue has deeply divided parliamentary blocs, with Christian groups calling for pardoning Lebanese who fled to Israel after it ended its occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000, while former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and others want the release of hundreds of Islamists held as terror suspects.
Lebanon and Israel are at a state of war and some Lebanese who fled to Israel now hold Israeli citizenship. Scores of protesters demonstrated in Beirut and southern Lebanon on Thursday against pardoning those living in Israel.