Southwest Airlines, the largest domestic carrier in the United States, has announced that it will not be operating a Boeing 737 Max until after Easter at the earliest.
The airline said on Tuesday that it is removing the grounded plane from its schedule through April 13. The previous date for its return at Southwest was March 7. Easter is Sunday, April 12.
Southwest is the second U.S. airline in less than a week to extend the time frame, again, for the Max return as the plane’s grounding lingers. American last week took the plane out of its schedule until April 7.
Both airlines are taking the step so they don’t have to cancel flights last minute if the grounding is further delayed by the FAA. United, the only other U.S. operator of the Max at the time of the grounding, is likely to follow suit.
Southwest said it will proactively cut 300 daily flights, out of a total of more than 4,000, in March and the first half of April that were scheduled on the Max, reducing flight options for spring break and Easter.
The airline had 34 Max 8s in its fleet at the time of the grounding, with plans to add many more this year and in subsequent years.
Most travelers haven’t booked spring break or Easter travel yet so the impact on passengers should be relatively light. Southwest said affected passengers will be rebooked and notified. Those whose flights are canceled are eligible for a refund if they don’t want to travel.
The move comes as Boeing itself took a major step Monday in the wake of the prolonged grounding: the aerospace manufacturer said it will temporarily halt production of the Max in January so it can focus on delivering a backlog of 400 planes to Southwest, American and airlines around the world after the grounding is lifted. Boeing has been making the plane all year, at a reduced rate, but can’t deliver them to airlines while the grounding is in place, creating a financial drain