A leading US airline anticipates financial losses in the first quarter of the year due to the grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9 jets by the US “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).” Following an incident where an unused door detached mid-flight, the FAA grounded 171 of these aircraft, with United Airlines possessing the largest fleet, comprising 79 planes.
United and Alaska Airlines, the carriers most affected, have been compelled to cancel numerous flights in January as inspections ensue. United projects the planes to remain grounded until January 26, and their forecast considers the potential of no flights operating this month.
The incident prompting the grounding occurred during an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland to Ontario when an unused emergency exit door blew out at 16,000 feet. Subsequently, the FAA expanded its inspections to include an older 737-900ER model utilised by United (136 aircraft in its fleet) due to its similar door design.
Emphasising safety over speed, the FAA stated, “The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning these aircraft to service.” Notably, the 737-900ER models have logged 11 million operational hours without a comparable incident to the more recent 737 Max 9s. Despite this, the FAA did not mandate the grounding of the older model during inspections.
Boeing, in response to the occurrence, declared an enhancement in the quality of inspections within its manufacturing processes. On the financial front, United reported steady pre-tax profits of $3.4 billion for the entirety of 2023.
The airline is set to discuss these results, along with updates on safety inspections for the grounded planes, in a call with analysts and investors. Alaska Airlines and Boeing are also expected to present their financial results in the coming weeks. The fallout from the grounding continues to impact the aviation industry, necessitating thorough inspections and potential shifts in manufacturing processes to ensure passenger safety.