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November or January? American, Southwest disagree on 737 Max timing

Getting the 737 Max back into service in time for the busy holiday travel season would be key for American.
Credit: AP /File
American Airlines (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The two major North Texas-based airlines who both fly the Boeing 737 Max aircraft disagree on a key matter regarding the beleaguered plane — when it will fly again.

Both carriers reported second quarter earnings Thursday. While Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) extended Max-related cancellations through Jan. 5, 2020, American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL) stuck with the plan laid out July 14 in cancelling flights through Nov. 2.

Getting the 737 Max back into service in time for the busy holiday travel season would be key for American. For its part, Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) said on its second quarter earnings call Wednesday it expects the 737 Max to return to service in the early fourth quarter.

Even if the aircraft does return to service by then, that's not the final step in getting it back in the air. Southwest Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in a Thursday morning release that one of the reasons for extending the cancellation window into 2020 was the time it would take to train pilots on any alternations of the plane.

"We estimate it will take us one to two months to comply with prospective FAA directives, including all necessary pilot training," Kelly said.

On the American pilot front, Eric Ferguson, the new president of the Allied Pilots Association which represents 15,000 American pilots, said Monday it "remains to be seen" what kind of training pilots will have to undergo before they get back in the plane.

Ferguson said he doesn't know whether training will include time in the simulator or classroom, because Boeing and the FAA are still working through fixes to the plane.

American President Robert Isom was asked Thursday morning why the carrier is sticking with the November cancellation window as Southwest extended its own by over two months.

"We're, I think, as up to speed as anybody," Isom said, adding he spoke with Boeing representatives Wednesday night after the manufacturer's earnings call.

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