Local travel agent says the 737 Max grounding is having less impact than expected in summer travel season

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The inability to use the 737 Max is causing Southwest Airlines to stop flying one of its’ newest routes out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport later this summer.

At the airport, you see lots of aircrafts taking off and landing, but you still don’t see any 737 Max aircrafts. They remain grounded as Boeing tries to fix software problems.

Airlines are now anticipating that 737 Max models will be grounded through September and as a result, Southwest Airlines confirmed it is going to cancel its’ non-stop flights between RDU and Austin, Texas starting in August.

That route had been recently added by Southwest into and out of RDU.

Earlier this week, American Airlines also announced it is extending cancellations of 115 flights into September because of the grounding.

As the 737 Max’s sit idle waiting for the OK to return to flight, CBS 17 wanted to know how that affects fliers confidence in the aircraft. Pat Acquista says he would feel comfortably flying it if they fixed the problem and trained all the pilots on the updated system.

Traveler Courtney Forsyth said, “I’m an ex-serviceman so I’d have all kinds of confidence in it.”

And what about travel plans? How are they being affected by the grounding?

“Honestly, we haven’t seen a huge impact from it at all,” said Felicia Lorelli, who is the vacation team manager at Maupin Travel in Raleigh.

“Initially,” she said, “there was a big kind of frenzy over it and rightfully so.”

But as the grounding dragged on, travel agents, and airlines have found workarounds.

She also says there are enough other aircraft to handle the load the 737’s would have carried. “We’ve seen some schedule changes, but overall, airlines have been able to get people where they needed to go.”

When the grounding first happened in April, CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg warned of significant price increases.

“Your fares might go up because the law of supply and demand kicks in,” he said. “Fewer planes means fewer seats which means more planes will be full and prices will be adjusted accordingly.”

But Lorelli says any price changes are hard to quantify. “We really can’t tell if the prices are due to seat changes or flight changes, so I couldn’t say.”

Once Boeing announces the fix for the 737 Max, it’ll be up to the FAA to make the final decision as to whether the jets are airworthy.

Right now, the FAA says it doesn’t have any timetable for that approval and re-certification process.

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