American Airlines just ramped up its Boeing 737 Max operations after a week of successful trial flights

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  • American Airlines grew its Boeing 737 Max route network on Tuesday to include Washington, DC and Orlando, Florida, as well as New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
  • The next few months will see the aircraft quickly expand across the US, Caribbean, and Latin America as American gets the newly-ungrounded fleet back to full strength. 
  • American began flying passengers on the aircraft again on December 29, 2020, between Miami and New York after a 20-month grounding. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

American Airlines is wasting no time in building back up the Boeing 737 Max in 2021, deploying the aircraft to more cities across the country after a successful week of trial runs.

Washington, DC; Orlando, Florida; and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, saw their first Boeing 737 Max arrivals in nearly two years as American resumed flights from Miami on Tuesday.

The expansion comes just one week after American successfully re-inaugurated the Max back into revenue service on December 29, 2020, flying between Miami and New York. It was the first time since March 13, 2019, that paying customers had flown on the aircraft in the US.

American has flown 14 scheduled flights with the Max in the days since, starting small with only two daily departures into the new year. But January is already seeing the aircraft’s schedule increase as Tuesday saw eight daily departures with the route additions. 

It’s only the start of a busy 2020 for the newly ungrounded jet as the airline moves to quickly get its fleet back in the air. American’s president, Robert Isom, told reporters in December that American had plans to build its fleet to 34 planes by the end of 2020, with no intention of having them sit idle. 

The airline had 24 Max aircraft in its fleet before the March 2019 grounding and has been working to bring them up to Federal Aviation Administration’s requirements.

On January 7, the Max will also head to Boston and San Juan, Puerto Rico followed by St. Croix and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands later in the month. These routes had formerly been flown by the Max prior to its grounding.

February will then see the Max expand beyond US borders to Latin America and foreign countries in the Caribbean, according to Cirium data. Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Cuba, Guatemala, Aruba, Antigua, and Brazil will all see the aircraft.

Gallery: The world’s safest airlines for 2021, per (USA TODAY)

The new routes will culminate in 91 daily departures by the end of February. For comparison, the same time period in 2019 saw a maximum of only 86 daily departures. 

American will also send the aircraft to Arizona for the first time, Cirium data shows, on the Miami-Phoenix route starting February 11, 2021, the same day that United Airlines resumes operations with the 737 Max 9 aircraft. 

The reason for the rush

American has always been the most eager airline to get the Max back in the air, despite having only the second-largest fleet behind Southwest Airlines. Just three weeks after the FAA lifted its ban on the Max, demonstration flights began with employees and media, including Business Insider’s David Slotnick, to restore confidence in the aircraft. 

The first revenue flight then came before the new year, months ahead of competitors. Reporter Chris Sloan called the flight “uneventful” and “boring,” which is top praise for a highly controversial plane like the Max. The flight crew even had their families onboard to show passengers just how safe they believe the aircraft to be. 

Read more: The 16 most outrageous things Boeing employees said about the company, 737 Max program, and each other in released internal emails

Quickly getting the Max back up to speed serves two goals for American: taking advantage of the plane’s economics and getting flyers more comfortable with the Max.

The sooner the Max becomes commonplace in the nation’s skies, the sooner the public will forget about the two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, appears to be the thinking. The public tends to have a short memory when it comes to boycotting certain aircraft as history has shown with formerly grounded types like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Douglas DC-10 have continued to have successful careers. 

American also isn’t hiding the fact that the Max is back in service with gate agents instructed to inform passengers of the aircraft they’re flying on, Sloan reported, and the airline differentiating the 737 Max from the 737 Next Generation on bookings and airport signage. Passengers can also change their flight for free if they’re uncomfortable flying on the Max, a trend being followed by all US airlines.

The aircraft is based in South Florida, a region that’s surged in popularity thanks to an early easing of lockdown restrictions by Governor Ron DeSantis in the spring. And countries in the Caribbean and Latin America where the Max will fly next have also largely opened their doors to Americans. 

Flights to those leisure destinations have been filling up as northerners escape the cold weather and renewed pandemic restrictions, and the Max makes those flights even more lucrative than older-generation aircraft. 

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