A major US airline is bracing for financial losses in the first quarter of the year due to the grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9 jets. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took action, grounding 171 of these aircraft after an incident where an unused door detached mid-flight. United Airlines, possessing the largest fleet of 79 Max 9 jets, anticipates ongoing cancellations and grounded planes until at least January 26. Alaska Airlines, the second-largest operator, faces similar challenges, both airlines having had to cancel numerous flights for inspections.
The incident that triggered these actions involved an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland to Ontario, where an unused emergency exit door blew out at 16,000 feet. Following this event, the FAA expanded its inspection scope to include an older 737-900ER model, which shares the same door design. United, with 136 of these jets in its fleet, will conduct visual inspections as advised by the FAA.
The FAA emphasized prioritizing safety over speed in returning these aircraft to service. While the newer 737 Max 9s face grounding, the older 737-900ER models, having logged 11 million hours of operation without a similar incident, are not subject to immediate grounding during inspections.
Boeing responded by committing to enhance inspection quality in its manufacturing processes. United Airlines, in its recent financial report, disclosed flat pre-tax profits of $3.4 billion for the entire year of 2023. The airline is expected to provide further updates on safety inspections during a call with analysts and investors. Both Alaska Airlines and Boeing are scheduled to release their financial results in the coming weeks.