American Airlines CEO upbeat about return of Boeing Max jets

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FILE - In this May 8, 2019, file photo workers stand near a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliner being built for American Airlines prior to a test flight in Renton, Wash. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says his airline is feeling more confident that its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets will soon be approved to fly again. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

DALLAS — American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says his airline is feeling more confident that its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets will soon be approved to fly again.

Boeing expects the Federal Aviation Administration to approve the plane’s return to service by year-end, and Parker says that sounds like a reasonable estimate based on American’s conversations with Boeing and the FAA.

Parker cautioned Wednesday that nothing is certain about the plane’s return, “but we feel a lot better about the fact that indeed the aircraft is going to get certified sometime in the near future. When it does, we will be ready.”

Boeing says it is close to finishing changes to the Max, including rewriting software on a flight-control system implicated in two deadly crashes. The company will then fly a certification flight as part of the FAA’s review of its changes. Airlines say they will need another one to two months after that to train pilots on the changes.

American is already selling flights on five of its Max jets as early as Jan. 15. Southwest Airlines is being more conservative, keeping the Max out of its schedule until Feb. 8.

Boeing Max jets have been grounded worldwide after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. American had 24 Maxes when they were grounded in March and had expected to receive about a dozen more by this time.

With the planes idled, American cancelled nearly 10,000 flights in the third quarter alone. The airline expects the grounding to cut pretax income by $540 million this year. Parker repeated that he expects Boeing Co. to cover that loss.

Shares of American Airlines Group Inc. fell 38 cents to $30.81 in afternoon trading.

David Koenig, The Associated Press

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