Airlines fly empty Boeing planes back home from Florida after 737 Max groundings

One day after President Trump ordered the grounding of the advanced Boeing 737 “Max” jetliners over safety concerns, airlines that operate them in South Florida juggled schedules Thursday and made arrangements to fly empty planes back to their home bases.

American Airlines — which operates a far-flung Latin American and U.S. hub at Miami International Airport — appeared to be the airline affected the most.

Airport spokesman Greg Chin said American was still dealing with delays and cancellations Thursday and expects more on Friday. Chin said American had 17 arrivals and 11 departures canceled Thursday.

“They’re projecting additional cancellations into at least tomorrow,” Chin said. The 11 cancellations Thursday included flights to Boston, Denver, San Jose, Costa Rica, the Caribbean island destinations of Port-au-Spain and Antigua, and Quito, Ecuador.

The Brazilian airline GOL and Cayman Airways each had an arrival and a departure canceled. Both foreign carriers grounded their affected 737s on Monday, Chin said. The Panamanian airline Copa flew an empty Super Max back to Panama on Wednesday after dropping off passengers in Miami.

Chin said American had been operating the Super Max on 42 departures daily at Miami. He added that 11 of the affected aircraft were scheduled to be ferried without passengers back to the carrier’s large maintenance center in Tulsa, OK., starting mid-afternoon Thursday.

“When the ground stop went into effect, any flights in the air were allowed to continued to their destinations,” he said.

Any planes still on the ground when the federal order was initiated were ferried to wherever the airlines decided to warehouse them, although the carriers needed Federal Aviation Administration approval to transport them.

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