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Check your flight: American removes 737 Max from schedule through holiday travel rush

Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY

American Airlines took the Boeing 737 Max out of its schedule through mid-January, triggering another wave of flight cancellations.

American sold tickets for travel on the Max beginning Dec. 4 but changed those plans Wednesday and said the plane won't be scheduled on any American fights until Jan. 16, a six-week delay that covers the busy holiday travel season.

Southwest Airlines had already taken the plane out of its schedule through the holidays.

The move leaves United Airlines as the only U.S. operator that has the Max scheduled to return this year. The airline sells tickets on the Max for travel beyond Dec. 19 but is likely to revise that date since the timetable for the plane's recertification by the FAA and return to service is still unclear.

Wednesday's announcement is American's seventh extension since the plane was grounded March 13 after two fatal crashes in less than five months that killed 346 people.

It means more travel pain is ahead for travelers. American had planned to have 40 737 Max 8s in its schedule by the end of the year, compared with 24 at the time of the grounding.

With fewer planes to accommodate travelers, the airline is doing what it and other carriers have done since the Max was grounded: proactively canceling flights.

American said the latest extension will result in the advance cancellation of 140 daily flights (out of 7,000 total) scheduled during the six-week period before, during and after the holidays. That has the potential to affect travelers who bought tickets and will hurt availability for those yet to shop.

Airline change your holiday flight? Blame the Max grounding

American said no travelers holding tickets for flights scheduled on a 737 Max through Jan. 6 would see their flight canceled. The airline plans to swap in Boeing 737-800s with the same seating capacity on routes scheduled to be flown on a Max, spokesman Ross Feinstein said. 

To do so, the airline will cancel select other flights around its system. American said from the start that it's not going to cancel only Max flights during the grounding because that would cause disproportionate harm in certain cities with a lot of Max routes, including its Miami hub.

Travelers whose flights are canceled will be automatically rebooked and notified by American via email or telephone, beginning Sunday, when the airline makes the Max-related schedule changes, Feinstein said.

Those who don't like their rebooked flight can change to another flight on the same route if available, without fees, or receive a refund even if the ticket is nonrefundable.

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Beginning Jan. 16, barring any further delays in the return of the Max, American plans to "slowly phase in'' the plane, increasing service throughout the second half of January and into February.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Boeing 737 Max: American removes plane from schedule into mid-January