American pushes back expected return of its 737 Max planes

American Airlines is pushing back the expected return of its Boeing 737 Max jets into next year and says the grounding of the planes cut its third-quarter pretax income by $140 million.

The airline said Wednesday that it expects to slowly bring the plane back into its schedule starting Jan. 16. 

That is six weeks later than American planned just last month, and the sixth time the airline has pushed back the plane's return. 

Fort Worth-based American said it will drop about 140 flights per day until mid-January because of the grounding. 

This news couldn't come at a worse time for travelers, as countless people have already booked their air travel for the holiday season.

Many of them will be getting a phone call or email beginning next week letting them know their flight has been canceled.

“The busiest time in the airline industry, and of all the times to take planes out of service, it's tough,” retired airline captain Denny Kelly said.

There is still no timetable yet from the FAA, which grounded the entire U.S. fleet of Boeing 737 Max jets.

“Pick a number. If you have 100 flights and 20 of them are on Max airplanes, and they can't fly that airplane, they've got to take 20 airplanes from someplace else. So 20 some planes. Someone is going to have a flight canceled,” Kelly added.

American Airlines said it will offer refunds to passengers whose flights are canceled and choose not to rebook.

It will ultimately be up to the FAA to determine when the Max jets will be allowed to return to service.

American has 24 Max jets in storage and expected to have 40 by the end of the year. American has about 950 jets, not counting smaller American Eagle planes.

The Max was grounded worldwide after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. Boeing is working on changes to flight-control software and computers. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.