United Airlines, the world’s biggest operator of the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft with 79 examples in its fleet, is keeping all of its airframes of the type grounded pending inspections mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Chicago-based carrier said on 7 January that the move has led to about 270 flight cancellations on Saturday and Sunday, with another 145 flights “saved by switching to other aircraft types”. It is unclear how many more flights will be cancelled in the coming days.

“Service on United’s Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft remains temporarily suspended while it conducts inspections required by the FAA,” the carrier says. “We’re continuing to work with the FAA to clarify the inspection process and requirements for returning all Max 9 aircraft to service.”

United has begun with “preliminary inspections as it awaits final instructions” from the US aviation regulator, the airline adds.


Source: United Airlines

United cancels all flights on its Boeing 737 Max 9 fleet, leading to cancellations

The FAA on 6 January issued an emergency airworthiness directive (EAD) for 171 examples of the Max 9 after an aircraft of that type suffered an explosive decompression during a flight on 5 January when an emergency exit cabin door “plug” blew out, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the jet. The aircraft, with the registration N704AL, operated by Alaska Airlines as flight 1282 from Portland to Ontario, California, was able to land safely back in Portland, with only minor injuries among its 171 passengers and six crewmembers.

The EAD requires immediate inspections of 737 Max 9s equipped with the door “plugs”. The FAA says its order applies to 171 aircraft globally – all 737 Max 9s “with a mid-cabin door plug installed”.

On 7 January the FAA added in a social media post that its ”first priority is keeping the flying public safe”.

”We have grounded the affected airplanes, and they will remain grounded until the FAA is satisfied that they are safe,” the US regulator says.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent a team of investigators to Portland to examine the aircraft and search for a cause. Included on that team are technical experts from the FAA, Boeing, Alaska Airlines as well as pilot and flight attendant unions. Late on 6 January, NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy appealed to the public for help in locating the lost door plug and other debris from the damaged aircraft. 

European safety regulators have followed the FAA in taking action against the aircraft type, although the effect in Europe is likely to be limited. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency says that the issue could affect other aircraft of the same design, and has ordered inspections before further flight of the aircraft.

Airlines globally operate 215 Max 9s, according to Cirium fleets data. While United has the largest fleet, other sizeable operators include Copa Airlines, with 29 Max 9s, and Aeromexico, with a 19-strong Max 9 fleet, the data shows.