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American Airlines restarts US commercial Boeing 737 MAX flights

American Airlines restarts US commercial Boeing 737 MAX flights
December 30, 2020

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Boeing’s 737 MAX resumed passenger flights in the United States for the first time on Tuesday after a 20-month safety ban was lifted last month.

American Airlines Flight 718 landed at New York’s LaGuardia Airport around 1:08 p.m after departing Miami about two-and-a-half hours earlier. A CNBC reporter said the wife of the flight captain and the first officer’s mother were both onboard the almost 1,200-mile flight.

American and planemaker Boeing have sought to reassure the public over the plane’s safety after it was cleared by US regulators in November to resume flights.

A Reuters/IPSOS poll shows that more than half of passengers are wary of taking the jet when reminded of two fatal crashes that led to the grounding.

“This aircraft is ready to go,” American President Robert Isom said at a media briefing in Miami before the flight. The airline is confident in the safety of the 737 MAX, he added.

American’s first flight between Miami and LaGuardia follows flight control updates, maintenance work, fresh pilot training and town hall meetings with flight crews to walk them through Boeing’s changes and address concerns.

American is the third carrier globally to resume flights following Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and Grupo Aeromexico earlier this month. Between those two airlines, the updated 737 MAX has flown about 250 commercial flights, according to Cirium, the aviation data firm.

American Airlines currently has 31 737 MAX aircraft after taking delivery of seven more jets since the FAA lifted its safety ban, including one on Monday and plans to gradually reintroduces the plane to its fleet.

 

The MAX’s return comes at a time when COVID-19 has thrust the industry into its worst crisis, with airlines parking hundreds of jets as demand hovers around 30% of 2019 levels.

When the 737 MAX was grounded, U.S. airlines canceled flights because they lacked aircraft to meet demand, adding to Boeing’s financial liability.

Now airlines are deferring jet deliveries and do not expect a robust rebound until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available.

Relatives of 737 MAX crash victims oppose its return.