The grounded Boeing Co 737 MAX is “highly likely” to be flying by mid-August, American Airlines Group Inc Chief Executive Doug Parker told shareholders Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for aviation safety, Ali Bahrami, said in an interview Wednesday at a conference in Cologne, Germany, the aircraft grounded since March should be back in the air by December, although an exact date is still unknown, Bloomberg reported.

A battered aviation industry is awaiting regulatory approval for a software fix and pilot training updates by Boeing that would pave the way for the troubled jet to fly again following two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia within five months.

American Airlines has said the economic impact of the grounded MAX would be about $350 million between its worldwide grounding in mid-March and Aug. 19, when the airline initially envisioned flying the jets again.

On Sunday, American extended cancellations of about 115 daily flights until Sept. 3, but Parker said that decision merely reflected monthly scheduling plans for pilots and flight attendants.

“No one should take that as some indication that we don’t think the aircraft will be ready by Aug. 19,” Parker said during the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

“We wouldn’t be selling seats today if we didn’t think it was a highly likely possibility . . . that we’d be able to provide that service by Sept. 3,” he added.

Boeing has yet to formally submit its software fix to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which said Wednesday it does not have a specific timetable on when the 737 MAX jet would return to service.

Still, Parker said he understood there is “an absolute fix” for the 737 MAX that will make it safe, while acknowledging it might take time to regain public confidence in the aircraft.

American has 24 MAX jets and dozens more on order.

The FAA is not the only regulator that holds sway over returning the Max to the skies. The European Aviation Safety Agency also is examining Boeing’s changes, a process that will not conclude until the end of July at the earliest, Director Patrick Ky said in a separate interview. The agency is considering whether to require additional simulator training for flying the Max, as well as potential design changes, he said.

Boeing has cut its production rate for the model by 10 planes a month to 42. The company had earlier aimed to increase output to 57 monthly in the second half of the year.

The Chicago-based planemaker faces an estimated $1.4 billion bill for canceled flights and lost operating profit at airlines if the Max is still grounded by the end of September, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst George Ferguson.

Material from Bloomberg wire service was used in this report.


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