Boeing Co.’s 737 Max has returned to commercial service in the U.S., with the first flight since two deadly crashes prompted the longest aircraft grounding in the nation’s history.
An American Airlines Group Inc. 737 Max 8 landed at New York’s LaGuardia Airport at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday, arriving slightly ahead of schedule from Miami in the first leg of a round trip. U.S. regulators lifted the flying ban last month after ordering extensive revisions to the plane’s flight control computer and other changes.
For Boeing, the Max’s return is the keystone of the company’s efforts to repair a balance sheet battered by the grounding and the coronavirus pandemic. The Max accounts for about 80% of Boeing’s backlog of aircraft orders and represents the company’s only offering in the crucial single-aisle market, in which the U.S. planemaker trails Airbus SE.
American said it hasn’t seen signs that customers are trying to avoid the Max. The carrier has scheduled 588 Max flights in January, according to data compiled by Cirium, an aviation analytics firm.
“Bookings on the Max are comparable to other aircraft, and we aren’t seeing data to suggest customers don’t want to fly the aircraft,” Sarah Jantz, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier, said in an email.
American’s president, Robert Isom, rode on the Max’s flight to New York and is planning to make the return trip to Miami.
The Max returned to commercial service earlier this month when Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA began operating regular domestic flights with the aircraft. The airline had operated 516 Max flights through Monday, while Grupo Aeromexico SAB flew 73, according to Cirium.
Last week, a Max flown by Air Canada on a test flight experienced engine issues that forced the crew to make an emergency landing in Tucson, Arizona, Aviation24.be reported.
Southwest Airlines Co., the Max’s largest customer, plans to fly the model next year, as do United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc.
The Max was grounded in March 2019. A total of 346 people died in the two crashes.