LARA editor Glenn Sands provides a summary of the latest happenings across the low-fare airline and regional aviation industry.

Barely a week goes by without another Boeing 737 MAX-related news conference being held or a press statement being released to the world’s aviation media.

Boeing continues to attempt to fend off accusations that its senior executives discussed potential MCAS problems before the MAX was originally certified. According to a number of news agencies and commercial pilots, an unprecedented cover-up was set in place within Boeing’s headquarters. It now appears that more than 400 pilots have issued a lawsuit against the aircraft manufacturer, labelling the MAX as ‘inherently dangerous’. These initial claims were filed in June and it’s expected additional claims from pilots will increase as we move into early 2020, with the MAX yet to return to service.

The rumoured battles in the boardroom continue at Boeing’s headquarters in Chicago while many LCCs and regional airlines are having to change their schedules again to react to these latest developments.

A clear indication of the frustration this is causing is highlighted by Southwest Airlines. With the unflinching determination to provide the safest service possible to its passengers, the airline has again revised its planned return to service date for the MAX from 5 January 2020 to 8 February. Signifying the confused environment surrounding the return-to-service of the MAX, earlier in October the airline had mentioned the aircraft may not return until March see Editor’s Comment: Staying strong in the Southwest…(8 October).

This revision follows the recent release of a report by the Joint Authorities Technical Review panel. This heavily criticised the FAA for not properly assessing Boeing’s proposed certification activities associated with the Boeing 737 MAX’s MCAS due to the agency’s inadequate awareness of the system’s function and its ‘limited involvement’ in oversight. The report stated there were ‘undue pressures’ on members of Boeing’s organisation designation authorisation apparatus who were performing certification activities on the MAX. The panel was charged with examining the circumstances that might have contributed to the 737 MAX aircraft crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Against such a highly charged, controversial analysis, it’s no wonder Southwest Airlines has chosen to delay a decision until February. I don’t expect it will be the only LCC or regional airline to take such a stance.

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