American Airlines has started flying Boeing 737 MAX, the plane, which was grounded in March 2019, after two fatal crashes.
The flight was from Miami to New York.
New York Times reported that Boeing’s troubled 737 Max plane returned to American skies on Tuesday, carrying paying passengers in the United States for the first time in almost two years.
Those passengers were aboard American Airlines Flight 718, which left Miami around 10:30 a.m. and landed after 1 p.m. in New York, December 29, well ahead of schedule.
The plane made the return trip, ending a long and difficult chapter for Boeing.
The Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after 346 people were killed in a pair of crashes, separated by months, in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The accidents and revelations about the plane’s shortcomings sullied the company’s reputation and cost it tens of billions of dollars in damages, government fines and lost orders.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has been criticised by lawmakers and safety experts for doing a poor job in certifying the Max in the first place, last month became the first major regulator to lift its grounding order. Boeing and the airlines that use the Max are required to install software updates, modify wiring and make other changes to the planes before they can fly again.
The FAA has since been joined by regulators in Brazil. Canadian and European aviation officials are expected to follow with approvals within weeks.
New York Times reported that the families of those killed aboard the two fatal flights argue that the Max is still unfit to fly.
Airlines to Screen JFK-bound Passengers
British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic said they would allow only passengers who test negative for the coronavirus to fly to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Reuters reported that the decisions followed a request from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the airlines voluntarily agree to screen passengers on flights to Kennedy airport after the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain.
Dozens of countries, though not the United States, closed their borders to Britain on Monday, causing travel chaos.
Cuomo, who shares oversight of the airport through state agency the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has said the US government should also stop flights from Britain, though he acknowledged that might come too late to prevent the spread of the new strain.
“I believe intuitively it’s already here,” he said, “because if it’s been flying around the world, it’s been here.”
The White House coronavirus task force met on Monday to discuss the possibility of temporarily halting inbound passenger flights from the United Kingdom, but has not announced any decision.
British Airways, Delta and Virgin are expected to begin the screenings this week.
US airlines have already drastically scaled back flying to the United Kingdom, as well as the rest of Europe: American Airlines, for example, currently operates just one U.S. daily flight to London out of Dallas.
United Airlines, which has issued a travel waiver for US flights to Heathrow between December 21, 2020, and January 17, is operating four daily flights to London in December but said earlier this month it would cut those in half beginning in January.
Last winter it operated 20 daily flights to the UK.