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FAA Gives United Airlines the Green Light to Launch New Routes and Aircraft as Safety Probe Continues Following String of Mishaps

FAA Gives United Airlines the Green Light to Launch New Routes and Aircraft as Safety Probe Continues Following String of Mishaps

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given United Airlines the green light to resume a number of certification activities, including the ability to launch new routes and aircraft, as a safety probe into a string of mishaps and accidents continues.

The FAA made its highly unusual intervention into United’s daily operations in late March after the airline repeatedly made worldwide headlines for a slew of embarrassing accidents, including a tire which fell off a Boeing 777 as it departed San Francisco International Airport.

Just a day later, a United 737MAX suffered a landing gear collapse at Houston International Airport after the aircraft rolled onto the grass due to wet and slippery conditions that were affecting the runway at the time.

And just a few days after that, an external fuselage panel fell of an older United Boeing 737 mid-flight after departing San Francisco Airport. The panel loss was only discovered after it had landed safely around an hour later.

The FAA quickly stepped in to increase its oversight at United and ensure its safety processes and maintenance system were up to scratch. At the same time, the agency also forced United to pause launching new routes to new cities until it was satisfied that United was able to launch new routes safely.’

In an internal memo shared on Thursday, United said it had finally been given approval to launch new routes and aircraft.

“After a careful review and discussion about the proactive safety steps United has taken to date, our FAA Certificate Management Office has allowed us to begin the process of restarting our certification activities, including new aircraft and routes,” the memo explained.

“Importantly though, our work with the FAA continues,” the memo continued. “There is more work to do, and we remain open to their perspective on things that can make us an even safer airline. That means we will continue to see an FAA presence in our operation as they review our work processes, manual and facilities”.

The ability to launch new routes, however, came too late to launch eagerly anticipated new routes to Cebu, Philipines and Faro, Portugal, as planned.

The launch date for Cebu has been pushed back from July to October, while United has been forced to delay the launch of its Faro route until 2025.

Last month, United was also forced to delay its annual investor day from May to a later date. The airline hoped to use its investor day to boast about its move upmarket, but executives decided that boasting about the airline’s “bright future” while an active FAA safety probe was in full swing would have sent the “wrong message”.

In response to United’s internal memo, the FAA said it was yet to formally approve “any expansion of United Airlines’ routes or fleets” adding that the safety probe is “ongoing and safety will determine the timeline for completing it.”

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