American returns the Boeing 737 Max to U.S. service

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A Boeing 737 Max sits on the American Airlines charter launch pad at Dallas-Fort Worth airport in early December.
A Boeing 737 Max sits on the American Airlines charter launch pad at Dallas-Fort Worth airport in early December. Photo Credit: TW photo by Robert Silk

American Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to return the Boeing 737 Max back to commercial passenger service Tuesday, ending a pause in U.S. domestic operations that had lasted since the aircraft's worldwide grounding more than 21 months ago. 

American Flight 718 landed at New York LaGuardia from Miami at 1:12 p.m. local time, carrying approximately 100 passengers, the airline said. The plane, which can carry up to 172 passengers, has nearly a full load booked for its return flight to the Magic City, which was scheduled for departure at 2:30 p.m. local time. 

Related column: Wheel's Up: What clients need to know about the 737 Max

Brazil's Gol became the first airline in the world to return the Max to commercial service with flights from Sao Paolo beginning Dec. 9. Aeromexico has also begun flying the aircraft. 

More airlines will soon join in. Thus far, eight carriers have the Max on their schedule by March, according to Cirium scheduling data. 

United is scheduled to resume Max operations on 10 routes beginning Feb. 11. Alaska has scheduled its first-ever Max service beginning with six routes on March 1.  Southwest, the other U.S. carrier with a fleet of Max aircraft, has yet to put the plane back on its schedule.

American plans to ramp its Max operations quickly. The carrier has the Max scheduled on 18 routes in January, according to Cirium, and 54 routes in February.

American currently has a fleet of 31 737 Max aircraft, according to the website Planespotters. 

The Max was grounded globally in March 2019 after the second of two crashes within five months that killed a combined 346 people.

The FAA lifted its grounding order on Nov. 18. Regulators in Brazil have followed suit, and the EU and Canadian grounding orders are expected to be lifted next month.

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