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Another Setback as Boeing Delays Return of 737 MAX

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In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Boeing Co. said the re-certification of its troubled 737 MAX plane will be delayed until at least “mid-2020” – and perhaps not in the air again until the fall or later.

The news sent Boeing’s stock tumbling 5.5% before trading was temporarily halted. The stock rallied slightly late in trading on Tuesday but still finished down more than 10 points.

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Production on the plane was stopped Monday, with more than 400 undelivered planes still sitting at Boeing’s facilities, and 387 already in use by airlines that have been grounded since March of 2019, following the deaths of 346 passengers and crew in two separate 737 MAX crashes.

“We are informing our customers and suppliers that we are currently estimating that the ungrounding of the 737 MAX will begin during mid-2020,” the company said in a statement. “This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process. Returning the MAX safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen.”

The Federal Aviation Administration also issued a statement on Tuesday, saying “The agency is following a thorough, deliberate process to verify that all proposed modifications to the Boeing 737 MAX meet the highest certification standards. We have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.”

The announcement will most certainly have a trickle-down effect. Airlines will be forced to go into the peak summer travel season without the use of the 737 MAX for the second consecutive year. Suppliers, some of whom have already laid-off workers, will be further hampered by the delay.

Fuselage producer Spirit AeroSystems has already furloughed 2,800 workers. Aviation expert Kevin Michaels, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory, told Forbes that a company like Spirit and its subsidiaries are in danger.

“There are a lot of small companies in the central U.S. supplying Spirit that I think can’t survive a six-month production shutdown,” Michaels said.

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Airlines Scaling Back On Some In-Flight Services Due to Coronavirus

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A few airlines, including those already affected by the coronavirus outbreak, have begun scaling back on some in-flight services as a way to help fight the virus.

The Points Guy writes that Singapore Airlines – obviously based in Asia, where the coronavirus has been most dangerous after originating in China – recently sent its frequent fliers an email about such changes.

Singapore advised its customers that some in-flight amenities will be discontinued, such as hot towel service, after-takeoff drink service, removal of reading materials from seat-back pockets, and suspension of in-flight sales.

Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research, said that Chinese and Taiwanese carriers have taken similar precautionary steps based on government guidance, including removing pillows and blankets on some flights.

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“They’re changing their cabin service procedures, so the passengers will notice this,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy.

But Harteveldt also remained optimistic that passengers wouldn’t pitch a fit given the circumstances.

“Passengers will accept (the reduction in services) because they’re being done in the interest of health and wellness,” he said.

As the virus, now known as covid-19, continues to expand globally, it remains to be seen if other airlines – including those based in the U.S. who offer international travel – adopt the same practice.

The aviation industry is quite often a copycat business, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some similar changes put into place.

“As adults, we have to be logical and rational when we experience these inconveniences,” Harteveldt told The Points Guy. “This isn’t cost-cutting, this isn’t random, this is in the best interest of public health.”

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