Continued 737 MAX grounding slows Southwest's St. Louis expansion

Michael Calhoun
February 18, 2020 - 11:51 am
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 takes off from a cloudy San Jose International Airport in December 2018.

© Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren for USA TODAY

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- Southwest Airlines' big summertime plans for St. Louis may have hit a snag, known as the Boeing 737 MAX.

The company had planned to add dozens of flights, mostly increased frequencies to cities like Boston, Denver, and Chicago. This was to launch with the June 7th schedule.

Now, Southwest is delaying many of those new additions because it doesn't expect to have the MAX back in the air until at least August 10th.

Local travel writer Max Prosperi thinks it's better for airlines to be surprised with good news than to have to scramble if the planes aren't back.

"It's a really great decision because we've seen airlines every few months having to continually push back these re-entry into service dates and alter their schedules," he says. "Southwest, by pushing it back into August, has given themselves a lot of leeway."

Southwest is the largest carrier at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

Lambert Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge previously told us that one-third of Southwest's flyers to St. Louis now are connecting through.

Other cities which were set to get more frequent flights from STL in this new schedule included Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Columbus, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and more.

"Southwest's big focus at the moment has been adding frequencies as opposed to new routes domestically, so (the aircraft shortfall) will impact how often Southwest serves a certain destination," Prosperi says. "It'll look like fewer options when you're booking."

Southwest had planned to add 106 new weekly flights here, but instead will only add 32 for now.

"In terms of additional frequencies and expansion, this definitely puts St. Louis at a temporary disadvantage due to Southwest being so large here," Prosperi says.

Southwest only flies one type of airplane -- Boeing's 737.

737 MAX versions were grounded last March after two international crashes killed 346 people.