As the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 saga continues, some airlines are confident that the planes will fly again soon, while others continue to readjust their flying schedules as an uncertain summer season looms ahead.
Swoop, Canada's low cost carrier owned by WestJet, currently operates a fleet composed entirely of Boeing's Next Generation aircraft, which is made up of the Boeing −600/-700/-800/-900 series.
It does not currently operate any of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which is entirely separate from the 737-800.
On July 9, Swoop was forced to cancel 23 flights after one of its planes experienced a maintenance issue. Because the airline never operated the Boeing 737 MAX 8, it faced a shortage in possibilities for rebooking passengers.
"Swoop is expecting the delivery of three additional Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft by the end of the year, bringing our fleet size to 10," Karen McIssac, senior advisor, communications, Swoop, told PAX. "There is no intention at this time to place a MAX order."
Flair Airlines also operates the Boeing aircraft, using a mix of the older Boeing 737-400 and the Boeing 737-800.
"Our operations were not directly impacted by the MAX grounding," David Tait, executive chairman, Flair Airlines, told PAX. "When, however, Air Canada and WestJet were suddenly forced to cancel a lot of flights we clearly benefited by absorbing significant numbers of their passengers who were looking for alternative ways to get to their destination. This was great exposure for us and we know for a fact that a lot of those passengers have since become loyal Flair Flyers. We believe that the MAX is an excellent aircraft and are certainly interested in adding it to our fleet at some future date."
Fleets affected worldwide
Dublin-based low-cost carrier Ryanair faces uncertainty over its summer 2020 growth plans, citing uncertainty around when and if the 737 MAX 8 aircraft will be able to fly by then, or anytime soon.
Boeing delivered 24 of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft in the second quarter of 2019, totalling 113 deliveries year-to-date.
Earlier this week, the airline released a trade update that confirmed that although Ryanair was expecting 58 of the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, it will now only receive 30. As a direct result, this will cut Ryanair's summer 2020 growth rate from seven per cent to three per cent, and means full year traffic growth for the year to March 2021 will be cut from 162 million guests to approximately 157 million.
Closures as early as 2019
Ryanair, a large investor in the Boeing brand, currently operates more than 400 Boeing 737-800 aircraft and 135 of Boeing’s 737 Max 200 on order.
In an investors statement shared with PAX, Ryanair confirmed that this inevitable fallout means that some base cuts and closures will happen for summer 2020, but they’ll happen even sooner, with winter 2019 schedules taking a direct hit.
“We are starting a series of discussions with our airports to determine which of Ryanair's underperforming or loss-making bases should suffer these short-term cuts and/or closures from November 2019,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary. “We will also be consulting with our people and our unions in planning and implementing these base cuts and closures, which are directly caused by the B737 MAX delivery delays to the B737 MAX program.”
The state of Boeing
Since Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft were involved in two fatal plane crashes just five months apart, respectively, flight JT 610, operated by Lion Air out of Indonesia back in October 2018, and flight ET 302, operated by Ethiopian Airlines out of Addis Ababa, Boeing has been working on debugging its software.
It was determined that a faulty angle of attack sensor on the outside of both planes sent incorrect data, ultimately forcing automated flight software - called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS - to kick into overdrive, which eventually forced the planes down.
Ryanair says it’s waiting on Boeing to receive a certification package by regulators, which will indicate when and if the 737 MAX 8 aircraft can resume service.
In the meantime, Ryanair has ordered the Boeing MAX200s, which are a variant of the MAX aircraft, and must be separately certified by the FAA and EASA.
“Ryanair expects that the MAX200 will be approved for flight services within two months of the MAX return to service,” O’Leary said.
Ryanair is hoping that its first MAX200 aircraft will be delivered sometime between January and February 2020.
“Since Ryanair can only take delivery of between six to eight new aircraft each month, we are now planning our summer 2020 schedules based on taking up to 30 B737 MAX aircraft deliveries up to end of May 2020,” O’Leary said. “This is less than the 58 MAX aircraft Boeing originally scheduled to deliver for our summer 2020 schedule. This number could rise, or fall further, depending on when the B737 MAX actually returns to flight service.”
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