Boeing has confirmed that it does not expect the 737 MAX to return to service before the middle of 2020. In a statement released on January 21, the company cautioned that this time-line is only an estimate and return to service of the airliner will be finally determined by the FAA, the regulatory agency of the US and other regulatory agencies across the world such as EASA and India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Since the FAA will lead regulators in reversing the grounding of the MAX, US carriers such as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines will be amongst the first in the world to re-start services with the aircraft. Executives at airlines have estimated they will need between one to two months, if not more, to prepare their grounded aircraft, complete the needed pilot refresher training and integrate the MAX into their network schedule. Assuming all goes according to plan, estimates are that the 737 MAX will begin to enter revenue service only by September 2020 or even later. A statement from the company said “In order to help our customers and suppliers plan their operations, we periodically provide them with our best estimate of when regulators will begin to authorise the un-grounding of the 737 MAX.”
Other aviation regulators have indicated they will independently look at the MAX re-entry into service, which will further aggravate delay. SpiceJet that operates the 737, the world’s best-selling narrow-body aircraft, as its fleet mainstay, will miss the MAX for peak summer travel season. The airline will augment its fleet using short term wet-lease of aircraft which will drive up costs for the already stressed airline.