If you don't want to fly on the Max, American, United and Southwest will let you change flights without penalty. Plus, how to tell when you're booked on a Max flight.
Last week the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its 20-month-old grounding order on the Boeing 737 Max. Though the decision formally clears the airliner to return to passenger service in the United States, airlines still have to complete two steps before they can resume Max flights: They must retrain pilots in simulators and make the FAA-mandated updates to the MCAS flight control system blamed for two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.
Both of those steps will take time, but the three US airlines that currently operate the 737 Max have already announced when they intend to add the aircraft back into their fleets. With Max passenger flights scheduled before the year is out, American Airlines will be first, followed by United and Southwest in early 2021. (Alaska Airlines has ordered the plane, and will start to receive its aircraft next year.)
For now at least, American, United and Southwest will allow passengers who don't want to fly on the Max to change flights without penalty. If you're nervous about flying the Max, your aircraft type will be listed in the flight details as you book. Typically it will be listed under "Flight Details," which may require an extra click. Some airlines will spell out the full aircraft name as "737 Max," while other carriers may shorten it to "7M8." If you're not sure, contact a reservations agent to confirm. Just remember, though, that airlines can change the aircraft type for your flight at the last minute.
Outside of Brazil, which also has cleared the plane to fly again, non-US airlines that fly the Max will have to wait until grounding orders in their countries are lifted before they can resume passenger flights. But Canada and the European Union are likely to do so soon.
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