Southland residents planning to travel by air Wednesday or in the coming days should double-check their flights in light of the newly announced grounding of possibly dangerous Boeing 737 Max jets, with a handful of cancellations already occurring at local airports.
In addition to the unprecedented grounding of the new planes that have been involved in two recent deadly crashes, airlines were canceling flights to the Denver area and other parts of the nation that were expected to be hit with a record-breaking storm that could affect millions of Americans.
As of midday, there were a total of 28 flight cancellations at Los Angeles International Airport Wednesday, but only three of them were 737 Max planes — a Southwest Airlines flight to Denver and Air Canada flights to Vancouver and Montreal, according to the FlightAware tracking website.
One flight involving a Max jet was canceled Wednesday at Hollywood Burbank Airport, a Southwest flight to Oakland.
FlightAware did not list any affected flights from John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
The grounding of the 737 Max airliners was announced Wednesday by President Donald Trump, and later confirmed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The move comes following two major disasters — Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people and an October Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.
“The agency made this decision as a result of the data-gathering process and new evidence collected at the (Ethiopian crash) site and analyzed today,” according to the FAA. “This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to the FAA this morning, led to this decision. The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the (National Transportation Safety Board) as parties to the investigation of the Flight 302 accident. The agency will continue to investigate.”
American Airlines, which operates 24 of the aircraft, issued a statement saying it will continue to coordinate with federal authorities and work to minimize disruptions to its schedule.
“Our teams will be working to re-book customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” according to American.
Southwest Airlines also said it was complying with the FAA’s directive and removing its 34 Max aircraft from service. The airline noted that the Max jets account for less than 5 percent of its daily flights.
“While we remain confident in the Max 8 after completing more than 88,000 flight hours accrued over 41,000 flights, we support the actions of the FAA and other regulatory agencies and governments across the globe that have asked for further review of the data — including information from the flight data recorder — related to the recent accident involving the MAX 8,” according to Southwest. “The safety of our customers and employees is our uncompromising priority, and today’s action reflects the commitment to supporting the current investigations and regulatory concerns.”
Southwest officials said the airline would use “every available aircraft” to minimize disruptions to its schedule. Customers on affected Max flights were being given the chance to change their flights without incurring any additional fees.
Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing president/CEO, said the company supported the FAA’s decision “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes and it always will be,” he said. “There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
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