August 30, 2019 / 4:07 PM / 22 days ago

United extends Boeing 737 MAX flight cancellations until Dec. 19

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks past unpainted Boeing 737 MAX aircraft seen parked in an aerial photo at Renton Municipal Airport near the Boeing Renton facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

CHICAGO (Reuters) - United Airlines Holdings (UAL.O) said on Friday it is extending the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights by another month until Dec. 19 as the jets remain grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in the past year.

Boeing Co (BA.N) has said it hopes to receive regulatory approval for updated flight control software at the center of both crashes in October, but it could take a month or two for airlines to train pilots on the new software and prepare the jets for commercial flight after sitting idle for months.

As the grounding that began in mid-March has dragged on, airlines that added the fuel-efficient, single-aisle MAX to their fleets in the past two years have had to cancel thousands of monthly flights, eating into their profits.

Chicago-based United had previously pulled its 14 737 MAX jets from its flight schedule through early November. Without the MAX, the carrier said it expects to cancel about 2,800 flights in November and 1,700 through Dec. 19.

Among other U.S. airlines that operate the MAX, Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) has cancelled flights into early January due to the grounding, while American Airlines Group (AAL.O) has cancelled through early November, saying it believes it can fly the jets by the holidays.

While the three airlines’ MAX jets accounted for only a fraction of their entire fleet at the time of the grounding, the impact on their schedules has intensified as deliveries of dozens of new orders remain frozen until the planes are approved to fly again.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Jonathan Oatis

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