Southwest Airlines has modified its schedule yet again to account for the imperiled 737 MAX now potentially grounded into August. That means that Southwest, the US carrier with the most MAX planes in its fleet (34 of the jet variants), now estimates that the plane will be grounded through the peak summer travel season.
Although the airline has said that with the extension it can build its MAX-less schedule “well in advance in hopes to minimize the daily disruptions,” this change will no doubt leave some travelers in a lurch. The airline has a fleet of more than 700 airplanes in total, so it’s able to take up some of the slack, but 34 grounded jets during the peak travel season is no small problem for any airline, even a giant one.
The truth is Southwest is having to get creative with how it uses its remaining planes — which means deciding to cancel some flights preemptively, to the tune of approximately 90 flights per day.
For passengers affected by the latest schedule changes, Southwest said that, “Any Customer booked on a cancelled 737 MAX 8 flight can rebook on alternate flights without any additional fees or fare differences between the original city pairs.” Customers who did not purchase their ticket via southwest.com can call 1-800-435-9792 to speak with a customer representative. (For more info, customers can check out the Travel Advisory posted on the airline’s website.)
Recently, Southwest has also taken measures to improve communication with customers through a Live Chat setting on their mobile app. The feature is currently still in its beta phase and is only being offered to a limited number of users. In order to gain access, you must be a Rapid Rewards Member, logged into the latest version of the Southwest Mobile App (version 6.1.0 or newer) and then selected at random to connect to Live Chat.
Boeing 737 MAX planes have been grounded around the world after the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, in which all 157 people on board the MAX 8 plane died on March 10. That crash closely mirrored another fatal accident on a MAX 8 jet, a Lion Air flight in Indonesia just five months earlier that killed all 189 people on board. Investigators noted an automated system on the plane activated before both crashes.
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