Although airport officials say the 737 Max has never touched down at GSP and in-state suppliers claim the pace of work has not changed, the jet’s recent troubles and subsequent grounding has not only forced Boeing to slow the Max’s production and explain-away any regrettable customer-impact, it has spawned reports linking the 737’s grounding to a spike in ticket prices at airlines whose fleets have been diminished.
Because the 737 Max is typically used for cross-country and international flights, GSP spokesperson, Dudley Brown said, “the jet has never flown in and out of this airport” and there have been no cancellations as a result of Southwest or American Airlines reallocating their fleets after the March 13, grounding.
Currently, Southwest has 34 jets out of service while American Airlines is running a close second with 24 Max’s parked in the desert.
With large portions of each airline’s fleet out of service, recent reports from the Dallas and Chicago Business Journal and Inc.com suggests the increase in fares is tied directly to the loss of the 737 Max.
Despite the flood of news, Southwest’s, Chris Mainz, said the airline never attributed a fare increase to the Boeing issue.
Rather than hub and spoke, the airline utilizes a point-to-point network, and “we typically don’t comment on pricing for competitive reasons,” he said. “All to say, we don’t have anything to add to this story.”
Boeing spokesperson, Libba Holland, said the manufacturer regrets the grounding’s impact on airline customers and their passengers.
“We continue to work closely with customers and global regulators to return the 737 Max to service,” she said.
While GSP officials don’t anticipate problems for Upstate travelers using one of the carriers, Southwest and American Airlines aren’t saying anything as the continued grounding puts a strain on their fleets.
American Airlines’, Andrea Koos, said the company has not disclosed the cancellations’ impact on specific airports.
However, “the cancellations related to the 737 Max are scheduled through Aug. 19 and spread throughout the airline’s network,” she said.
While Southwest raised its prices across the board, American Airlines only increased its rates on domestic fares by $5 for a single leg, according to the Chicago Business Journal.
In addition, the airline has offered another explanation to its rise in ticket costs.
American Airline’s chief financial officer, Derek Kerr, pointed to an increase in fuel this year as culprit for their jump in prices.
“We are forecasting our average fuel prices will be between $2.14 and $2.19 per gallon for the second quarter of 2019 and $2.13 to $2.18 for the full year,” he said. “Our anticipated consolidated fuel expense for the full year is now approximately $650 million higher than our expectations at the start of the year.”
IMPACT ON STATE SUPPLIERS?
Although the 737 Max is assembled exclusively at Boeing’s site in Renton, Washington, the aerospace company named GKN Aerospace, Michelin North America and RBC Aerostructures as South Carolina firms making parts for the jet.
GKN Spokesperson, Wesley Bates, acknowledged the company and its Fokker business supplies wiring, wing and engine structure components for the 737 Max, but said there have been no consequences to its facility in South Carolina, “so far.”
While RBC Aerostructures declined comment, Michelin North America’s Director of External Communications, Eric Bruner, was willing to say, “there’s been no meaningful impact on production” even though the Boeing supplier does not typically discuss production volumes or supply chain topics for competitive reasons.
Holland said Boeing will continually work with their suppliers during the temporary production slow-down.
“Our objective is to ensure supply chain health and production system stability,” she said.
Because Boeing has temporarily slowed production of the 737 Max from 52 aircraft per month to 42 to accommodate the pause in Max deliveries, Holland said the reduction would allow the company to prioritize additional resources and focus on software certification to return the Max to flight.
To better position Boeing in the future, “we are taking proactive, measured steps to invest in the health of our production system and supply chain,” she followed. “Our near-term focus is on the 737’s safe return to service.”
Since the two crashes involving the Boeing jet cost 346 lives in the Java Sea near Indonesia and Ethiopia, a CNN article Tuesday detailing a Boeing report showed the company has not sold a new 737 Max since the line was grounded two months ago. In addition, the Boeing report also showed no sales of the 777 or the 787 in Charleston during the entire month of April.
After completing 207 test flights totaling 360 hours of flight time, the aerospace company announced Thursday the 737 Max’s software upgrades have been completed, but before the jet can take off again, it must undergo a series of tests and certifications outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies around the globe.