United, Delta admit worries over impact of government shutdown
Updated 17-01-2019, 10:45 (UTC+2)
Since the partial U.S. government shutdown began on December 22, 2018, most of the attention has been focused on federal employees, including air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents. And yes, the economy. But as the shutdown drags on, major U.S. carriers are hemorrhaging too: their aircraft, new routes and tickets sales are stalling. And it seems like they are getting a little worried.
The situation on the ground is this: since many Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials have been furloughed, some of U.S. airlines’ plans on new routes, such as Southwest’s new service to Hawaii, as well as brand-new planes, like the introduction of Boeing 737 MAXs, have been put on hold, delaying commercial operations.
"...if the shutdown continues more aircraft may be impacted,” - United's spokesman
The distressing warnings and loose projections on the impact of the government shutdown on the U.S. airline industry’s growth have been heard far and wide. But here’s the reality: aside of the delayed aircraft, the U.S. government shutdown is expected to cost Delta about $25 million this month in lost business due to weaker demand and less travel by federal employees and contractors, the airline’s CEO Ed Bastian was reported as saying by Bloomberg on January 15, 2019.
Big bird American Airlines has recently taken delivery of two new Boeing 737 MAX 8s out of the total 16 scheduled for delivery in 2018. The planes, registered as N350RV and N341RW, arrived at American’s maintenance base at Tulsa International Airport (TUL), Oklahoma, on December 26 and 31 respectively. They are still unable to fly: airlines need federal safety inspectors to debut new aircraft.
“We have taken delivery of two MAX 8 aircraft since the shutdown began. Both planes are in Tulsa awaiting FAA approvals required before operating in commercial service,” American Airlines confirmed to AeroTime on January 15, 2019, adding, “We continue to monitor the situation, and are closely working with our federal government partners.”
To date, a total of 20 MAX 8s have been delivered to American and it is set to receive another 20 this year, as part of 2013 order for 100 of the MAX family jets. The airline says it does not expect the certification delay of its two new 737s to have any impact on its flight schedule or customers, Reuters reports. The top U.S. carrier operates a massive mainline fleet of 954 aircraft.
United is also left hanging with two jets that it is unable to debut to the public. A spokesman for the airline confirmed to AeroTime that the company currently has one Boeing 737 MAX 9 as well as one used Airbus A319 awaiting for the FAA to re-open so that they could enter into service. Seems like a needle in a haystack, since United operates at least 770 mainline aircraft, right?
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