The Dallas Morning News

Southwest takes more Max flights off its schedule

Teams aim to reduce other summer cancellati­ons, help those affected change plans

- By MITCHELL SCHNURMAN Staff Writer Twitter: @mitchschnu­rman

Southwest Airlines is removing the grounded 737 Max 8 from its schedule for at least two more months, until Aug. 5, the company told customers Thursday.

As a result, more Southwest passengers will have to adjust their itinerarie­s to accommodat­e their summer travel plans. But at least they — and Southwest — will get an earlier start on the process.

“Our teams are working to further increase the reliabilit­y of our schedule and reduce the amount of lastminute flight changes, especially during the upcoming summer travel season,” Southwest president Tom Nealon wrote to members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards loyalty program.

The Max has been involved in two crashes abroad, including one last month in Ethiopia. The plane was grounded by regulators in the U.S. on March 13, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights and strand some passengers.

Southwest has 34 of the Max aircraft in its fleet, more than any other airline. The Max already had been removed from Southwest’s schedule through June 7. American Airlines and United also had extended Maxrelated cancellati­ons through June 5.

Boeing has been working on a software fix for the Max, but it’s not known when the planes will be cleared to fly again.

Southwest has more than 750 planes, so the Max represente­d less than 5% of daily flights, a spokesman said. But Southwest is the nation’s largest domestic carrier, which means many people have been affected. From March 13 to April 6, Southwest canceled 3,539 flights due to the Max grounding, a spokesman said.

The Max grounding followed another major disruption to Southwest’s scheduled service. The carrier and its mechanics union had been locked in a yearslong contract fight when mechanics began pulling more planes out of service in midfebruar­y.

Mechanics cited various safety problems, but Southwest said many writeups were for minor issues, such as broken arm rests and tape on cargo bins. Such offenses increased 400% to 500%, Southwest said in a lawsuit aimed at ending the actions.

Soon after the Max was grounded, leaders from Southwest and the union reached a tentative agreement that includes a 20% pay raise and $160 million in retroactiv­e pay. The rankandfil­e is expected to soon vote on the deal.

Southwest said it would proactivel­y notify customers who have already booked summer travel and will be affected by the amended schedules. They can change flight plans without penalty and rebook on Southwest’s website, if they prefer.

It’s setting up a dedicated phone line next week for customers affected by the Max grounding, a spokesman said. Southwest also has an online site on the latest Max developmen­ts.

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