Southwest removes Boeing 737 MAX from schedule until November 2, freezes pilot hiring

FILE PHOTO: Dozens of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. Picture taken July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

(Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) joined U.S. rivals on Thursday in cancelling more flights until early November due to the continued grounding of Boeing Co’s (BA.N) 737 MAX, which has also prompted the low-cost carrier to freeze new pilot hiring.

Dallas-based Southwest said on Thursday it would schedule without the 737 MAX until Nov. 2, a decision that proactively removes about 180 daily flights from its schedule, more than the 150 daily flights it was removing through early October.

Boeing’s top-selling 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March after two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people. The timing of its return to service is uncertain.

Deliveries also are on hold, meaning the pain for airlines like Southwest that were depending on receiving new jets this year is worsening. Southwest was expecting to take delivery of 37 MAX 8 and seven MAX 7 aircraft this year.

The delays have forced the airline to defer two new-hire pilot classes and two captain upgrade classes for existing pilots until it has more clarity over the MAX’s return to service and delivery timelines, Southwest said in an e-mailed statement.

American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) and United Airlines Holding (UAL.O) also have removed the 737 MAX from their flying schedules until early November.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski and Ankit Ajmera; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Bill Trott

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