Southwest postpones Boeing 737 Max jets' return through March

Southwest Airlines 737 MAX interior

A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, Calif., on March 26, 2019.

The world's largest aerospace company is now facing multiple lawsuits in both crashes, including one that alleges Boeing concealed problems and refused to ground the plane on its own.

Meanwhile, shocking new details have emerged about the source of the delays in returning the Max to service.

American and United have taken their Maxes out of the schedule until at least January.

Reuters reported this week that US and European regulators will need to return to a Rockwell Collins facility in Iowa to complete an audit of Boeing's software documentation after regulators found gaps and substandard documents. That has thrown into question when Boeing would be able to complete a certification test flight. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it would not unground the planes until 30 days after that flight occurs.

The return-to-service dates provided by the airlines are hardly set in stone, considering they're contingent upon Boeing completing its work to fix problems with the plane, and regulators' acceptance that those changes are sufficient.

Without the planes, Southwest says it will cancel about 175 flights each weekday.

The groundings also mean Southwest won't be taking delivery of seven more 737 Max planes this quarter and is supposed to get 34 more after that.

Boeing didn't immediately reply to a ask for for comment Friday. While Southwest has always had an all-Boeing fleet and has tied its future growth to the Max, the airline recently said it would review whether to add other aircraft types. In a similar decision announced earlier on Friday, Southwest Airlines said it would keep the jets grounded until March 6. However, it now expects to return the planes to service by March 5, almost one year after the deadly Ethiopian Airlines accident which killed 157 people and led to the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX.

But without clarity on the MAX timeline, Southwest said it could not update a previous forecast for first-quarter capacity to grow between 2% and 3%.

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