Alaska Airlines has returned a Boeing 737 MAX 9 to

Alaska Airlines has returned a Boeing 737 MAX 9 to service with a flight from Seattle to San Diego

American airline Alaska Airlines on Friday resumed operations on one of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft, which had been suspended by American regulators following an incident on one of its planes on January 5.

• Also read: Alaska Airlines estimates the cost of suspending the Boeing MAX 9 at $150 million

• Also read: Boeing boss acknowledges 'seriousness' of Alaska Airlines 737 incident

• Also read: United Airlines is revising its plans amid Boeing setbacks and delays

The plane from Seattle to San Diego took off about an hour late.

The company announced online this morning that Flight 1146 would begin the phased return to service of its fleet of 65 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

It was scheduled to take off from Seattle at 2:40 p.m. local time and land in San Diego, California, at 5:05 p.m., traveling the west coast of the United States from north to south.

According to the Seattle airport and Flightradar24 websites, the plane ultimately took off at 3:51 p.m. local time and was scheduled to land at 6:03 p.m.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci made it clear Thursday during an audio conference with analysts discussing 2023 results that he expects those flights to resume starting Friday.

The return to service of the fleet is expected to take until the beginning of February.

Back to normal

On January 5, a cap holder came loose in the cabin of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 connecting Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California.

Airlines have the option to block a door if the number of existing emergency exits is sufficient in relation to the number of seats on the aircraft. This modification was made to 171 of the 218 Boeing 737 MAX 9s delivered to date.

Following the incident, the American Aviation Regulatory Authority (FAA) suspended the aircraft configured in this way until further notice.

The regulator said Wednesday evening that it had put in place a “comprehensive” maintenance and inspection program to allow these planes to return to the air.

Only when the established plan is completed “can the aircraft be returned to service,” the FAA said, without giving a date.

Alaska Airlines said Friday morning that inspections of its fleet – up to a dozen hours per plane – should be completed “by the end of next week.”

“This will allow us to operate our flight program at full capacity,” said the company, which estimates that 3,000 flights were canceled due to the suspension in January, with a financial impact estimated at $150 million.

The American company United Airlines, which has the largest fleet of these reconfigured models (79), announced on Thursday that the first flight of one of its aircraft was scheduled for Sunday, but did not rule out returning it to service at a later date.

The American Transportation Safety Agency (NTSB), which is responsible for investigating the circumstances of the Jan. 5 incident, told AFP on Friday that one of its investigators would return to the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, the same day.

The investigative team will “build a chronology from the initial stages of production of the cap holder to the flight accident,” the agency said, adding that they will also review documentation related to the aircraft (production and maintenance).

She is expected to report on her investigation next week.