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

There’s nothing like being prepared and it appears that Southwest Airlines is preparing for the possibility that its Boeing 737 MAX fleet won’t be back in regular service until March 2020.

Although many airlines are expecting to have their aircraft in service earlier, it will take around 45 to 60 days to get each aircraft ready for passenger flights to meet the new compliance issues directed by the FAA. To meet its timeline, Southwest Airlines anticipates that its 737 MAX will receive re-approval before the end of November. If this occurs, the 737 MAX will be on track to return to service early next year. But if there’s a delay, this may push the timeline back until the spring.

Although the FAA has not released a set timeline, it has focused purely on reviewing the technical upgrades to the aircraft and its MCAS. What has to be considered is that the new review procedures must be thoroughly detailed for all global regulatory agencies and carriers to be confident in the FAA’s standards. In addition to the FAA, a host of agencies are conducting their own tests on the MAX.

Fortunately for Southwest Airlines, if the worldwide ban on the MAX is not universally lifted, the 737 MAX could fly on domestic routes while older 737NGs could take on the international routes until global certification. Even some domestic routes would offer relief to Southwest’s operations. The ability to have aircraft on reserve and not operating at full capacity allows the airlines some latitude in case of unplanned operational delays.

Along with many operators, Southwest Airlines will be seeking compensation from Boeing. But in an unusual step, the airline has also signalled their employees could well receive part of this compensation package in recognition of loss of hours for flight and cabin crews.

Whatever the future holds, it appears that Southwest Airlines has all its options covered and a staff as keen to get back into the air as the airline’s owners are to see operations return to normal.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the LARA e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

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