It was day full of countries blocking the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft from their airspace as a safety precaution following Sunday’s horrific Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians.
Canada, so far, is among the countries that have not ordered its airlines to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8s, with both WestJet and Air Canada – both of whom operate the aircraft – reaffirming their faith in the Boeing airplane.
Sunwing Airlines, which flies four MAX 8s, has remained tight-lipped on the situation...until now.
Sunwing speaks out
In a late night press release sent at 10:38 p.m. on Tuesday night (March 12), the airline announced that it has “taken the decision to temporarily suspend the operations of our 4 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.”
“The FAA has issued a statement of continued air-worthiness of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and we have confidence in the investigative process as well as the handling of this matter by Transport Canada and the other Canadian operators of the MAX 8,” the statement reads.
The popular leisure carrier stated that it made the decision “for evolving commercial reasons unrelated to safety, including airspace restrictions being imposed by some of our partner destinations.”
"Revising its flying schedule"
The airline wrote that it was in the process of revising its flying schedule to accommodate the “temporary removal of our MAX aircraft from service,” adding that it appreciates the patience of its retail partners and customers while it works to communicate these updates.
The airline will aim to minimize the impact of its schedule changes, which it believes is achievable given that the MAX 8 makes up less than 10 per cent of Sunwing’s fleet, the release reads.
The worldwide crisis involving Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 has already caused some flight disruptions in Canada.
Air Canada not budging
Air Canada has also cancelled a flight that was scheduled to leave St. John's for Heathrow on Wednesday night.
Air Canada currently has 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8s in its fleet.
In a statement emailed to PAX yesterday, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick provided the following comment:
“We have extensive analytical data supporting the safety of these aircraft, which have also performed excellently from reliability and customer satisfaction perspective,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
Fitzpatrick added: “We continue to monitor the situation and based on current information, and recommendations by government safety regulators, including Transport Canada, the FAA, and the manufacturer, we continue to operate our normal B737 schedule.”
WestJet also “remains confident” in the safety of its Boeing 737 fleet.
“We have flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, and the fleet currently operates around 450 safe daily B737 departures,” Lauren Stewart, an official spokesperson at WestJet, wrote PAX in an email.
Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash represents the second fatal crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane within five months. The same aircraft model was involved in the Lion Air crash last October, which saw a two-month-old plane crash into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people.
This is a developing story.
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