American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has told employees that politics may be playing a role in the re-certification of the Boeing 737 Max, according to recordings of conversations with employees reviewed by CNBC.
The plane, which has been grounded since March, has caused American and other airlines to cancel hundreds of flights each day. As the busy summer travel season begins, airlines are under increased pressure to meet the demands of the flying public while shifting schedules to accommodate less aircraft.
“I think as much as anything now it may be politics as much as the true certification … safety issue. I don’t think the FAA wants to be alone in doing this,” Parker told employees at a town hall meeting last week, according to CNBC. the F
Parker noted that a proposed software fix has been talked about “for a while” with no results yet from regulators or Boeing.
When the Federal Aviation Administration met with regulators from more than 30 countries across the globe in May to discuss the Max re-certification process, FAA officials were adamant the U.S. would lead on getting the plane back to operational status. Officials were also hopeful foreign regulators would aid in the process, sharing information gathered about the two crashes that led to the grounding of the jet along the way.
Though regulators have said Boeing has a software fix prepared to address a flight control system suspected of being an underlying factor in both crashes, the agency has not yet approved the fix for implementation.
Even with the fix approved, airlines will need time to retrain pilots before getting the planes off the ground again.
North Texas-based airlines American and Southwest have experienced an outsized impact from the Max grounding because the carriers’ fleets contain more of the aircraft than any other in the U.S.
American Airlines has 24 Max jets in its fleet, and Southwest’s fleet has 34.
Both airlines have removed the Max from flight schedules through Labor Day. There is no timetable for when regulators will clear the plane for passenger travel again.