Further uncertainty surrounding the timing of the return of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft and increased air service to Europe lead this week’s air travel news.
This week Southwest Airlines extended its flight cancellations caused by the grounding of the 737 Max through February 8, calling the timing of the aircraft’s return to service “still uncertain.” Southwest said the new cancellations amounted to approximately 175 weekday flights. Earlier, both United Airlines and American Airlines had released updated schedules pointing to a January return for the aircraft, which was pulled from service after a pair of deadly crashes on Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia’s Lion Air.
As for passengers still concerned about flying on the aircraft after it is deemed safe by regulators, their options for rebooking will be limited, according to an analysis in our partner publication, Luxury Travel Advisor. There will be no government-mandated compensation in such as case, although American Airlines has said that it will rebook customers who are not comfortable flying on the 737 Max without charging the standard $200 change fee. The airline has also promised more details on that policy “in the coming weeks.”
In Europe, JetBlue and low-cost transatlantic carrier Norwegian announced plans for a major new interline agreement. The deal will allow customers to use a single booking for connecting flights between the Americas and Europe. Plans call for the partnership to launch in early summer 2020, with bookings opening early next year through both airlines’ websites and for travel advisors via GDS.
In aircraft news, Etihad Airways announced plans to launch daily service to Milan aboard the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner out of its Abu Dhabi hub. The airline began running routes from Abu Dhabi to Milan in 2007, and it credits the introduction of the new aircraft to increased demand from the Italian market. The new plane will have 28 Business Studios and 271 Economy Smart Seats. Soon, the aircraft will also be among the first Dreamliners in Etihad’s fleet with new Economy Space seating.