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Southwest Airlines Extends Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Into August

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Southwest Airlines announced Thursday it has updated its flight schedule and extended the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights through early August, which will impact the busy summer travel period.

According to Reuters.com, Southwest previously removed the grounded fleet of 737 MAX planes from its flight schedule through June 6, but the airline revealed it would keep the aircraft out of its plans through at least August 10.

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As the largest operator of 737 MAX planes, Southwest officials said the changes would result in roughly 371-weekday flights being removed from the carrier’s total peak-day schedule, a 10-percent increase from the 330 weekly flights previously canceled through June 6.

American and United airlines also previously canceled 737 MAX flights into June.

“By proactively removing the MAX from scheduled service, we can reduce last-minute flight cancellations and unexpected disruptions to our customers’ travel plans,” Southwest said in a statement. “The limited number of customers who have already booked their travel and will be affected by our amended schedule will be notified of their re-accommodated travel according to our flexible accommodation procedures.”

Boeing officials announced last week the airplane manufacturer was still working toward a “mid-2020 estimate for return to service” for the 737 MAX fleet, which has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes killed 346 people.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration revealed last week it anticipates the grounded plane’s certification flight will take place sometime in the next few weeks, according to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

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Expect Airlines to Supply Fewer Options and Higher Fares After COVID-19

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While many in the air travel industry are, of course, hoping for a swift and complete rebound in passenger traffic once the COVID-19 crisis finally comes under control, others aren’t as optimistic.

In fact, aviation analysts are saying that the diminished demand for air travel brought on by the coronavirus pandemic will likely persist for quite some time, even once the threat of contagion has passed.

CNN Business’ coverage looked back at the commercial aviation industry’s path to recovery after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, pointing out that passenger traffic didn’t fully bounce back until 2004. And, in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, it wasn’t until 2013 that passenger traffic again reached the levels seen in 2007, just prior to the recession. The slumps seen in air traffic during those two crises were just a fraction of what the world has witnessed over the past four weeks.

It’s likely to take a long time for passenger air traffic to rebound from this unprecedented downturn, even once people are able to start flying again. As airlines resume operations, they’ll be selective about the routes they maintain and reduce frequency in order to fill more seats per plane, which will lead to higher fares than were seen before the crisis.

Chief credit analyst for airlines for S&P Global, Philip Baggaley, explained that, as airlines return fewer planes to service and fill those in operation to maximum capacity, many of the low-costs seats that fliers once enjoyed booking will vanish. “Fewer seats flying means fewer cheap seats at the margin,” he said.

“There’s going to be fewer airplanes. That means less flying,” industry consultant, Mike Boyd, told CNN Business. “So, there’s going to be less choice, and you’ll be paying more. There’s no way around that.”

Historically, major economic blows to the industry have resulted in bankruptcies and mergers for the airlines. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, there had been nine major U.S. carriers, which afterward merged into today’s four major carriers, which last year accounted for 80 percent of passengers flown aboard U.S. airlines: American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

It’s possible, then, that a new wave of airline failures and mergers is on the horizon, especially given that the $50-billion federal bailout promised to the industry won’t even cover the near-$65 billion in revenue that U.S. airlines would have otherwise collected, even if they only matched last year’s numbers.

“In the near term, we’re going to see a shakeout,” said Joe Schwieterman, a transportation expert and professor at DePaul University in Chicago. “The weaker players may not survive this. Most industry leaders are expecting a long, painful recovery.”

This post was published by our news partner: TravelPulse.com | Article Source

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