Aerospace & Defense

American Airlines to Add 737 Max Flight by Year's End

In a statement to Reuters on Sunday, American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) said it has scheduled its first flight of a Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) 737 Max for December 29. The airline is the first major U.S. carrier to announce a 737 Max flight since the plane was grounded in March of last year.

The first flight depends, of course, on the plane receiving certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). American noted that it maintains frequent contact with both Boeing and the FAA and will continue to update its plans based on a certification date.

American has scheduled a single daily flight between Miami and New York for the days between December 29 and January 4. The flights will be available for booking on October 24.

The 737 Max recertification process got a boost in late September when FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson flew the latest version of the plane in a two-hour test flight. Dickson had taken the same training program Boeing plans to offer to all pilots, once the agency completes a final draft report. Once all the approvals have been gathered, the FAA will notify international regulators that the work is completed and the agency will publish an airworthiness directive rescinding its grounding order.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said earlier last week what the 737 Max may return to European skies before the end of the year. The agency expects to issue its own airworthiness directive next month, according to a report at Bloomberg News.

At one time, an FAA airworthiness directive was nearly universally acknowledged as sufficient to get a plane into service, until the agency’s delay in grounding the plane following a second crash on March 10, 2019, that killed 157 shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa. A similar crash in Indonesia in October 2018 killed 189 people. The FAA grounded the plane on March 13, but not before issuing a statement saying there was no reason to ground the plane.

No other major American carrier has stepped up to announce the resumption of 737 Max flights by the end of the year. Both Southwest Airlines and United Airlines are not targeting any flights until next year. Delta does not have any of the planes in its fleet.

Boeing stock traded up about 0.8% shortly before noon Monday, at $168.66 in a 52-week range of $89.00 to $375.60. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $177.36.

American stock was up more than 2% to $12.73. The 52-week range is $8.25 to $31.67 and the consensus price target is $11.25. That boost is more likely due to a report from the Transportation Security Administration that the number of air travelers on Sunday exceeded a million for the first time since mid-March.