American Airlines is confident that two stakeholder gatherings in the coming days will help provide clarity on when the Boeing 737 MAX fleet will be cleared to fly again, a top executive said.

“Both of these are really big meetings, I think,” American president Robert Isom said at the Wolfe Research Global Transportation Conference May 21. “I expect, and I hope, that we have some better clarity to the path to get the aircraft back up and flying.”

The meetings are an FAA-hosted, regulators-only gathering in Dallas and an IATA operators’ meeting in Montreal. Both are scheduled for May 23. The FAA meeting will focus on the agency’s progress in reviewing Boeing’s MAX flight control software and training changes in response to two 737-8 crashes in five months, while IATA will solicit feedback from affected operators. The 370-aircraft MAX fleet was grounded within three days after the second accident, the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 near Addis Ababa.

Dallas/Fort Worth-based American operated 24 of the grounded MAXs and has removed them from its schedule through Aug. 19. Isom said the carrier will decide in early June if further adjustments are needed.

“We’ve got some dates in early June where we’ve got to really take a look and make sure that we’ve got a path forward and clearly laid out,” he said. “If not, we’ll make the decisions to ensure that we’re taking care of our team and customers. My expectation, my hope, is that everybody gets together and figures out a way forward and we get these aircraft back flying,” he added.

American projects the grounding will cost it about $350 million in full-year income, assuming its plan to have the aircraft back in revenue service by Aug. 19 holds. It is canceling about 115 flights per day under its current schedule.

The longer-term bottom-line ramifications will be more significant, though harder to quantify. Isom confirmed that American has paused its Oasis seat-densification project in part because the airline needs all the aircraft it can get its hands on while the MAXs are grounded. It has modified 71 of about 300 737-800s “and we hoped to have quite a bit more done than that,” Isom said. “But ... we’ve decided to put off further installation until the beginning of next year.”

Oasis adds 12 seats each 737-800, so their capacities match the airline’s 172-seat 737-8s. It expects to modify most of its 304 737-800s, but some of the oldest airframes will not be updated.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com