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Boeing under pressure amid cancelled flights, Trump tweets

AFP  |  New York 

faces a wave of flight cancellations by US and pressure from to re-brand its top-selling 737 MAX aircraft, a month after the plane was grounded worldwide in the wake of deadly crashes.

American and say the grounding will disrupt scheduled flights through the summer, during the which helps generate corporate profits.

American is cancelling all 737 MAX flights through August 19 while Southwest, which owns the largest 737 MAX fleet, with 34 planes, is cancelling them until August 5.

United Airlines, which also ordered the 737 MAX 9, did not respond to an AFP query.

In all, an average of 275 flights a day will be cancelled, which are likely to put a dent in and could cause the companies to raise airfares.

American already cut a key industry revenue metric -- Total Revenue per Available Seat-Mile, or TRASM -- saying it will rise one percent in 2019, down from a prior estimate of two per cent.

is allowing affected passengers to reschedule flights at no additional cost.

"Neither nor like cancellations and there are stiff contracts which make this very difficult," said Scott Hamilton, of the site Leeham and Analysis.

"The companies will swap airplane types, however, if it comes to this."

All 737 MAX aircraft have been banned from the world's skies since mid-March after suffering two fatal crashes less than five months apart: a flight crashed in the Sea in October, leaving 189 dead, and the Ethiopian crash on March 10, which killed 157 people.

Crash investigators have zeroed in on the planes' anti-stall system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

And Boeing, which has already ceased 737 MAX deliveries and slowed the pace of production, a buildup of delays could increase the penalties it must pay client airlines, Hamilton said.

Trump tweeted early Monday that had to give its scandal-stricken aircraft a new image.

"What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name," he said.

But Hamilton said Trump was right to doubt his own expertise.

"Trump is a boob. Boeing isn't going to rebrand the 737," Hamilton said, pointing to Boeing's log of more than 4,600 backorders, a key sales revenue driver, and adding that the order cancellations so far were "inconsequential." of agreed.

"Pretty much all of Trump's pronouncements on are safely and best ignored," he said.

Boeing is finalizing for the MCAS, which it has pledged to submit to regulators in the coming weeks so that the 737 MAX grounding order can be lifted.

"We're focused on testing and implementing the software update and rebuilding the trust of our airline customers, pilots and the travelling public," a told AFP.

"We know we have a deep responsibility to everyone who flies on our airplanes to ensure that the MAX is one of the safest aircraft ever to fly."

Rebranding the aircraft would impose additional costs on the airlines which would be required to fully retrain pilots, while an updated model involves less intense additional training.

Flight cancellations show the airlines, that had hoped to have the planes back in the air by May, now expect it will be longer before the aircraft can return to service.

Aviation analysts largely agree and expect the grounding to be lifted by the end of August.

In the meantime, the industry is working to regain the trust of the flying public.

The US Federal Aviation Administration, which must certify the 737 MAX's airworthiness, released a video last week in which its said the agency was working to keep pilots informed.

The FAA also said the agency would not rush to get the 737 MAX flying again.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, April 15 2019. 23:30 IST