737 Max Grounding Leads to American, Southwest Bumping More Passengers

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American Air Boeing 737 MAX

The number of passengers who were bumped from flights on American Airlines and Southwest Airlines increased dramatically in the first half of the year, largely due to the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported Thursday that American denied seats to 69,924 passengers voluntarily in the first six months of 2019, up from 28,409 in the same period last year. Involuntarily, American denied boarding to 5,022 passengers, up from 678 in the same period last year.

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For Southwest, the airline denied seats to 22,364 travelers voluntarily through June, compared with 10,364 in the first half of 2018. Southwest involuntarily denied boarding to 2,525 people, up from 1,045 in the first six months of 2018.

In the report, the FAA wrote that both airlines mentioned: “The grounding of the 737 Max aircraft has negatively impacted their involuntary denied boarding statistics.”

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide in March after two crashes, five months apart, killed 346 passengers and crew. Southwest and American are the two biggest U.S.-based customers who use that type of aircraft, and shuttling passengers and flights around to different aircraft has been problematic.

“The biggest challenge in the operation continues to be out-of-service aircraft,” American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said. “This reduces our ability to start the day right and to swap aircraft when needed as the day goes on.”

American has canceled about 115 flights per day that would have used the 737 Max through November 2. Southwest has canceled all flights using the aircraft through January 5, 2020.

Boeing has implemented a software upgrade it hopes will solve the issue that caused the fatal crashes. The airplane manufacturer hopes to conduct a test flight sometime in September that could lead the FAA to reverse its decision on grounding the plane.