Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft return to service for United Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have confirmed their plans to return their fleet of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft to service following a near-disaster that saw a door panel on an Alaska plane carrying 177 people explode in midair.

In its latest earnings report released Thursday morning, Alaska Airlines said it is preparing to complete inspections on all of its 737 MAX 9 aircraft, and that each aircraft will return to service after its inspection is completed and any findings are resolved.

CNBC mentioned On Thursday, Alaska Airlines indicated that Max 9 flights would resume early Friday, following the Federal Aviation Administration Final approved inspection instructions late Wednesday that were needed to return the planes to service.

United Airlines, the other major carrier that flies the MAX 9, He said Thursday It will return the planes to service next week.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Max 9 aircraft one day after the near-disaster over Portland, Oregon, on January 5.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282It was acquired by NBC affiliate KGW
The door plug was recovered from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on January 8 in Portland, Oregon. National Transportation Safety Board via AP

Alaska Airlines' schedule has been plagued by cancellations ever since. 20% of its fleet consists of Max 9 aircraft. On Thursday, 22% of its flights remained cancelled, according to data from Flight Aware.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News Chief Correspondent Tom Costello, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said the company sent its own audit team to assist in Boeing's inspections of its planes to ensure quality and safety.

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“There is no doubt that Alaska received an aircraft off the production line with a defective door,” he said.

Seattle Times reported Wednesday The defective door panel appears to have been produced at the company's facility in Renton, Washington, and is not – contrary to previous reports – the responsibility of a Malaysia-based third-party company.

The future of Boeing's entire production expansion is less clear after the Federal Aviation Administration put the company's planned production increases on ice.

“This will not return to business as usual for Boeing,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement. He added: “We will not approve any request from Boeing to expand production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues revealed during this process have been resolved.”

Boeing shares have fallen 20% since the accident in early January.

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