Some flights headed for Hawaii were canceled Wednesday when the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft were grounded due to safety concerns after one crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday.
The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, in statement to members, said the grounding affects nonstop flights to Hawaii on United, Air Canada and WestJet — comprising 59,040 seats in March, or 1,905 seats a day, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Eleven flights to and from Hawaii daily use the Max 8 or Max 9 aircraft. Airlines planned to use other planes and make flight adjustments to get passengers where they were going.
Southwest Airlines said in a press release Wednesday it is “immediately complying with today’s FAA requirement for all U.S. airlines to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8. As a result, we have removed our 34 Max 8 aircraft from scheduled service.”
Southwest operates a fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737s, and the 34 Max 8 aircraft account for less than 5 percent of its daily flights.
“We have been in constant contact with the FAA and Boeing since Ethiopian Airlines’ accident last Sunday. While we remain confident in the Max 8 after completing more than 88,000 flight hours accrued over 41,000 flights, we support the actions of the FAA and other regulatory agencies and governments across the globe that have asked for further review of the data — including information from the flight data recorder — related to the recent accident involving the Max 8,” the press release said. “The safety of our customers and employees is our uncompromising priority, and today’s action reflects the commitment to supporting the current investigations and regulatory concerns.”
Southwest announced it is also offering flexible rebooking policies. Any customer booked on a canceled Max 8 flight can rebook on alternate flights without any additional fees or fare differences within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city pairs.
“During our 48-year history, Southwest has continuously demonstrated our commitment to Safety,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s CEO and board chair. “We sincerely appreciate the trust our customers and Employees place in our airline every day, and the Southwest team is working diligently to minimize disruptions to our customers’ travel plans.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Max Wednesday, saying “new information” indicated some similarities with a Lion Air crash in the Java Sea that killed 189 people in October. The agency suspended the jets while investigators determine whether there was a shared cause of the two crashes. The FAA had been criticized for allowing the planes to fly while dozens of countries suspended their use.
Airlines, mainly Southwest, American and United, should be able to swap out planes pretty quickly, and passengers shouldn’t be terribly inconvenienced, said Paul Hudson, president of flyersrights.org, which represents passengers. The Max, he said, makes up only a small percentage of the U.S. passenger jet fleet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.