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United Airlines removes Boeing 737 Max from schedules through March

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Nov. 15 (UPI) — United Airlines announced Friday it removed its fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9s from its schedule through early March, by which time it will be about a year since the airline last flew the model.

The company said it plans to cancel 8,568 flights between this month and March due to the grounding. Customers with tickets for affected flights will be able to rebook or receive a refund, United said.

President Donald Trump ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after two crashes involving the model killed nearly 350 people. An Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 killed 157 people and a Lion Air crash Oct. 29 in Indonesia killed 189. United doesn’t have any Max 8 aircraft, but it owns more than a dozen Max 9s, which were also grounded.

United is the third airline to announce an extension of the grounding through early March. Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines revealed similar measures planning to reintroduce the aircraft March 6 and March 5, respectively.

“For more than 90 years, the safety of our customers and employees at United has come first, which is why we have cooperated fully with the FAA’s independent review of the Max aircraft, and we won’t put our customers and employees on that plane until regulators make their own independent assessment that it is safe to do so,” United said in a statement.

Boeing said Monday it expects to put the troubled aircraft back into the air in January. It’s still undergoing FAA certification for upgrades the company made to its flight control software, which was blamed for the two crashes.

“We are working towards final validation of the updated training requirements, which must occur before the Max returns to commercial service, and which we now expect to begin in January,” the aviation giant said.

Boeing said FAA pilots must still conduct certification flights with the final updated software, for which Boeing will submit the results for the FAA. The Joint Operational Evaluation Board must then conduct a multi-day simulator session with global regulatory pilots before final approval for the training.

Clyde Hughes contributed to this report.

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