737 Max

United Provides No Return Timeline for Grounded Boeing 737 MAX and 777

United Provides No Return Timeline for Grounded Boeing 737 MAX and 777
Joe Cortez

Although United Airlines sees a direct path to profitability through increased bookings, flyers plans may not involve either the Boeing 737 MAX or 777 airframes powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. On the quarterly investor call, the airline did not announce when airframes affected by ground orders would come back online.

To become profitable after the COVID-19 pandemic, United Airlines is betting on an increase of travelers visiting friends and relatives. However, the airline may not be able to rely on certain airframes as the busy summer months looms ahead. During their 2021 first quarter call with investors, executives did not give an update on when the airline would resume operations with certain Boeing 737 MAX and 777 aircraft.

Electrical and Engine Issues Leave Aircraft Grounded Indefinitely

Two different issues have forced United to park a number of their Boeing aircraft within weeks of each other. On Sunday, Feb. 20, 2020, a Pratt & Whitney engine aboard the Boeing 777 operating as United Airlines Flight 328 exploded shortly after takeoff from Denver International Airport (DEN). Since then, all 24 aircraft in United’s fleet have been grounded, pending additional engine inspections.

Nearly two months later, an electrical issue identified on the Boeing 737 MAX forced 16 airlines to take certain airframes out of their fleet rotations for repairs. United was forced to ground 17 of their 30 total MAX aircraft for repairs.

Although the summer is shaping up to be a busy season for United and other airlines, the 41 aircraft may not be carrying passengers in the coming months. When asked by analysts, leaders at United did not commit to when they would start flying again.

“We have really good collaboration with Boeing, the FAA, we think the solution [for the Boeing 737 MAX electrical issue], once it’s formally identified is relatively straightforward,” said Jon Roitman, head of operations for United, as quoted in a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “And we’re looking forward to getting those aircraft back in the very near future.”

While the answer was questionably optimistic about the MAX, the issues on the 777 may not be solved anytime soon. When specifically asked about the widebody aircraft, Roitman did not give any information about when they would rejoin the fleet.

”It’s just too premature for us to outline what that schedule [for the 777 looks like],” said Roitman. “I’ll just tell you that, again, we’ve had really productive collaboration…and there’s progress. And, we’re really looking forward to getting the aircraft back in the air safely.”

While United Hangs On, Other Airlines Retire Affected Boeing 777 Aircraft

As United plans to resume flying with the Boeing 777 airframes, other airlines are retiring the aircraft powered by the Pratt & Whitney engines in favor of newer aircraft. In early April 2021, Japan Airlines decided to retire their 13 777s, in favor of the Airbus A350.

View Comments (4)


  1. gaume

    April 25, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    United is offering 737 MAX flights now…or at least end of May 2021. Absolutely will not book them. United flights were SFO DEN.

  2. AsiaTravel2019

    April 26, 2021 at 6:19 pm

    Max is a great airplane. Have enjoyed flying it many times…get it together, Boeing!

  3. N174UA

    May 4, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    The United Flight 328 incident occurred on Saturday, February 20, 2021. The date in this article shows both the day of the week and the year as incorrect.

  4. edgewood49

    May 7, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    The good thing about flyers purporting never to book a Max leaves us more seats.

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