Boeing 737 Max resumes flying US passengers after two-year halt


NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Boeing's troubled 737 Max plane returned to American skies on Tuesday (Dec 29), carrying paying passengers in the United States for the first time in almost two years.

Those passengers were aboard American Airlines Flight 718, which left Miami around 10.30am.

The plane was scheduled to land in New York at 1.30pm, before making the return trip on Tuesday afternoon.

The Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after 346 people were killed in a pair of crashes, separated by months, in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which has been criticised by lawmakers and safety experts for doing a poor job in certifying the Max in the first place, last month became the first major regulator to lift its grounding order, requiring Boeing and the airlines that use the Max to make certain changes to the plane before it could fly again.

The FAA has since been joined by regulators in Brazil.

Canadian and European aviation officials are expected to follow with approvals within weeks.

The families of those killed aboard the two fatal flights argue that the Max is still unfit to fly.

Boeing has scored some new orders for the Max in recent weeks. But Boeing's overall order backlog contracted by more than 1,000 planes in 2020.

Like other airlines, American has said that it will allow passengers worried about flying on the Max to rebook their trip to avoid the plane.

The airline's approximately 2,600 Boeing 737 pilots will all be retrained to fly the Max.

In addition to FAA oversight, each Max jet will be subject to internal inspection and a readiness flight before it carries passengers.

United Airlines said it expects to start flying the Max on Feb 11, out of Denver and Houston.

Alaska Airlines is scheduled to use the plane for some West Coast flights starting March 1.

Southwest Airlines has said it does not expect to fly the plane until the second quarter.

Delta Air Lines does not use the plane.

Gol, a Brazilian company, became the first airline in the world to resume flying the plane for commercial service this month.

Aeromexico has since started flying the Max, too.