Southwest removes 737 MAX jets from schedule through August 5

FILE PHOTO: A number of grounded Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft are shown parked at Victorville Airport in Victorville, California, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Co said on Thursday it would remove its 34 Boeing Co 737 MAX jets from its flying schedule through Aug. 5, leading to around 160 daily flight cancellations during the revised summer schedule.

In a statement, Southwest President Tom Nealon said the decision is meant to “increase the reliability of our schedule and reduce the amount of last-minute flight changes,” especially during the summer travel season.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Leslie Adler)

With 737 MAX grounded, airlines face daily scheduling challenges

FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit next to the maintenance area after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Kraczynski

By Tracy Rucinski and Allison Lampert

CHICAGO/MONTREAL (Reuters) – Following the global grounding of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets, U.S. and Canadian airlines that fly the roughly 175-seat aircraft face a fresh logistical challenge every day: which flights to cancel and which to cover with other planes.

Southwest Airlines Co and American Airlines Group Inc, the two largest MAX operators in the United States, said they have bolstered their reservation and operations teams to figure out how to spread flight cancellations across their networks, not just on MAX flights.

American Airlines, for example, had most of its 24 MAX jets flying in and out of Miami, where load factors have been full during the Spring Break season.

“We can’t just cancel all of those flights, so the goal is to spread out the cancellations across our entire system to impact the least amount of customers,” American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said.

This means that an American Airlines flight from Miami to the Caribbean initially scheduled on a 737 MAX may now fly on a 737-800 with a similar seat configuration, while that 737-800 flight is canceled.

“It’s a challenge to explain to customers who weren’t previously booked on a MAX why their flight is canceled,” Feinstein said.

The 737 MAX jets were grounded last week following two fatal crashes in the past five months, the causes of which are under investigation.

Southwest, the largest MAX operator in the world with 34 jets representing about 5 percent of its total fleet, is canceling about 150 flights per day due to the grounding, but not all on MAX routes.

Steve West, Senior Director of Southwest’s Operations Control, said the company is trying to cancel flights five days in advance, while looking at issues such as weather, that could free up jets, like last week’s snowstorm in Colorado.

Southwest and American were already grappling with a larger than the normal number of out-of-service aircraft, further straining their fleets.

So far United Airlines, with 14 MAX aircraft, has not canceled any flights due to the grounding but has had to put smaller aircraft on some routes and fly the larger 777 to places like Hawaii.

It is unclear how long the grounding will last. Deliveries are also on hold, meaning an additional hit to airlines due to receive more of the jets this year.

Boeing has over 5,000 orders for the MAX, which sold fast thanks to its higher fuel-efficiency and longer range. Now airlines face a dent to 2019 profits.

Calgary-based WestJet said it took steps prior to the MAX grounding to start protecting trans-border flights to sunny destinations that were previously scheduled to fly with the carrier’s 13 MAX planes.

Meanwhile, Air Canada said on Tuesday it would remove its 24 737 MAX aircraft from its schedule until at least July 1, 2019.

“It is easier to put the aircraft back in the schedule than to pull it out,” said a source familiar with the carrier’s thinking, who is not allowed to publicly discuss its strategy.

 

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Widening snowstorm, freezing rain to snarl travel in eastern U.S.

Pedestrians walk down the sidewalk as snow falls in the Times Square neighborhood of New York, U.S., February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A widening snowstorm with an encore of freezing rain iced over the U.S. Midwest on Tuesday and headed east, causing hundreds of flight cancellations and closing schools, and was expected to tangle New York and Boston’s evening rush hour.

As much as 1 foot (30 cm) of snow was predicted for inland parts of New England, as well as up to 4 inches (10 cm) in New York City and up to 5 inches (13 cm) in Boston before turning to freezing rain in the late afternoon, said meteorologist Dan Petersen with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

“The big cities along the coast are going to have a pretty quick changeover from snow to sleet and freezing rain and eventually rain,” Petersen said in a phone interview. “The danger of snow changing to freezing rain is people slip and slide quite a bit and that’s the cause of accidents when people lose control of their cars.”

The storm by early morning had iced over Illinois and Michigan and was moving through Wisconsin into northern Pennsylvania and southwestern New York state. The widening storm was expected to reach as far south as northern Delaware and Maryland, Petersen said.

More than 1,600 flights into and out of the United States were canceled on Tuesday, most of them at airports in Chicago, New York and Boston, according to FlightAware.com.

Ahead of the storm, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency, and hundreds of schools were closed for the day.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Authorities must do more to meet airport drone threat: UK police chief

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport after drones flying illegally over the airfield forced the closure of the airport, in Gatwick, Britain, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – Government and security officials must “up their game” to tackle the illegal use of drones at airports which brought chaos to London’s Gatwick airport in the run-up to Christmas, Britain’s most senior police officer said on Thursday.

Three days of drone sightings at Britain’s second busiest airport lead to about 1,000 flight cancellations and disrupted the travel of 140,000 passengers in what is thought to be the most disruptive incident of its kind.

London’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said no police force around the world could be sure of preventing the problem posed by drones at airports.

“I think the whole country and certainly the government will have watched what’s gone on and said we need to up our game here,” Dick told BBC radio.

“You won’t find a police service in the world I think who would be sitting complacently thinking: ‘well we could always deal with a drone’.”

The drones were first spotted at Gatwick on Dec. 19. Every time the airport sought to reopen the runway, the drones returned and authorities only regained control over the airfield after the army deployed military technology to guard the area.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said on Monday that Britain’s security forces now had detection systems that could be deployed across the country to combat the drone threat.

“The drone technology is always changing. We have to keep up with that. There are a whole variety of tactics and technologies that we are now using, can use and in the future they will have to change again I’m sure,” said Dick.

“I’ve been talking to colleagues around the world. I can tell you this is not an easy problem. We are doing our very best here and going into the future I’m sure working closely with others we will get better and better.”

The police investigation into the Gatwick incident is ongoing. Detectives on Sunday released without charge two people they had suspected of flying the drones.

Flying drones within 1 km (0.6 mile) of a British airport boundary is punishable by up to five years in prison.

“We need to work even more closely with the private companies, we need to work even more closely with the military, we need to try to be able to prevent the criminal use of drones for whatever motivation near our airports,” Dick said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by William Schomberg)

Second U.S. winter storm forces hundreds of flight cancellations

The Brooklyn Bridge is seen partially in fog from in front of the Manhattan skyline in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., January 12, 2018.

By Alana Wise

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A second winter storm in as many weeks caused hundreds of flight cancellations across the United States, airlines reported on Tuesday, potentially dealing a further blow to carriers’ first quarter outlooks.

As the storm sweeps across southeast Texas and up the East Coast dumping snow, sleet and freezing rain, airlines have already canceled flights into Wednesday in anticipation of difficult conditions.

American Airlines, the world’s largest airline by passenger traffic, had canceled some 270 flights between Tuesday and Wednesday as a result of the storm, it said.

Rival Delta Air Lines, the No. 2 U.S. carrier by passenger traffic, said it had canceled about 275 Tuesday flights and expected additional cancellations in New York and Boston as the storm tracked north.

The third-largest U.S. carrier, United Airlines, said it had canceled more than 700 flights on Tuesday. United was offering to waive fees for changes to flights to and from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and other affected airports for scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday flights.

The storm itself is relatively minor compared to other winter weather events, and several hundred flights represent only a tiny percentage of airlines’ overall operations. But such storms are still a nuisance to carriers and can cost them millions of dollars in lost revenue.

A massive winter storm at the onset of the year caused thousands of cancellations, as several inches of snow and ice paralyzed the U.S. Northeast and forced the closure of some of the region’s biggest airports.

(Reporting by Alana Wise, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)