Texarkana, TX 77° Mon H 94° L 70° Tue H 85° L 60° Wed H 83° L 61° Weather Sponsored By:

On the Money: Grounded Max jets could lead to higher summer fares

On the Money: Grounded Max jets could lead to higher summer fares

May 6th, 2019 by Associated Press in Business

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane being built for India-based Jet Airways lands on April 10 following a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. The grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets likely means that fare increases this summer will be larger than already expected and airlines will struggle to handle disruptions such as storms that shut down hub airports. Ted S. Warren/ AP file photo

Photo by Ted S. Warren/ Associated Press file photo

The grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets likely means that fare increases this summer will be larger than already expected and airlines will struggle to handle disruptions such as storms that shut down hub airports.

With Max jets grounded after two deadly accidents, U.S. airlines will operate about 200 fewer daily flights than planned through the heart of the peak summer season. That's around 35,000 seats lost every day.

Travel-data firm Hopper said this week that it expects the average domestic round trip in May will cost $236, 7% more than a year ago, and keep rising in June. Most of that increase is due to the price of jet fuel and other economic causes, but some of it is due to the Max, according to Hayley Berg, the firm's economist.

The grounding of Max jets will leave other planes more crowded.

"We expect a certain level of chaos," said Henrik Zillmer, CEO of AirHelp, which helps travelers get compensation for travel disruptions. "With so many passengers being rebooked, flights may get more overbooked than usual, especially when weather or other factors cause cancellations."

For some passengers, the grounding of the Max will mean a change in travel plans.

Southwest, American and United are the three U.S. airlines that used the Max before regulators grounded the jet in mid-March. They are taking passengers whose original itinerary included a Max and rebooking them on flights using other planes.

That could mean a nonstop flight turns into a connecting flight. Or it might arrive several hours later than the traveler expected.

Travelers who don't like their new itinerary have limited options. Zillmer said under most international laws the grounding of the Max by governments is considered an extraordinary circumstance, and passengers aren't eligible for compensation for resulting disruptions.

Travelers can seek a full refund, however, even if they bought a nonrefundable ticket.

"If the new flight doesn't work for you, you might consider getting your money back and finding a flight that suits you on your own," said Tracy Stewart, content editor for travel site airfarewatchdog.com. But he warned that you might end up paying more that way, especially because prices tend to rise closer to summer.

Southwest Airlines has more Max jets than anyone else—34—and was scheduled to receive another 41 later this year, although that schedule is now in doubt.

Still, the Max accounts for only about 5% of the Southwest fleet and less than 1% of the passenger-carrying capacity of U.S. airlines overall.

Berg, the Hopper economist, said heavily traveled routes will probably see little disruption, but routes with lower demand might see some cancellations or suspensions for a short time.

One example is Pittsburgh, where Southwest plans to suspend service to Los Angeles and Cancun, Mexico, next month because of the Max situation.

Until the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Max in March, Southwest was using them on many trans-continental flights. American Airlines, with 24 Max planes, flew them heavily in and out of Miami.

Southwest and American both say have redistributed their fleets so that no routes suffer a disproportionate seat shortage due to the grounding of the Max.

"The Max impact is not isolated to any region or route," said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz. "On any given day, with 34 Max, we could have 146 flights on 115 routes touching 44 airports with a Max. And we don't schedule them the same every day. The impact truly is across our network."

United hopes to have its Max jets flying again in July, while Southwest and American have dropped them from their schedules into August. Boeing is working on a software fix that it hopes will convince regulators to let the planes return to service.

It remains to be seen how many travelers will be reluctant to board the plane after crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Preliminary reports found that software on the plane forced the noses down, and pilots were unable to regain control.

If the planes are cleared to fly, passengers who cancel a reservation or refuse to board the plane because they are afraid won't be eligible for compensation, according to AirHelp's Zillmer. They can ask the airline for a refund, but that might not work either.

"By the time fall rolls around and the software updates have been applied and Maxes are back in operation, it's pretty unlikely airlines would be as flexible with refunds and ticket changes," said airfarewatchdog's Stewart.

It will be up to consumers, he said, to check what kind of plane the airline plans to use before they click "buy" on the ticket.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com