Friday,  May 24, 2019  9:30 am

What to do if your clients are booked on a Boeing 737 MAX 8

What to do if your clients are booked on a Boeing 737 MAX 8
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

This story has been updated as of 4:20 p.m. (Mar. 13, 2019) to reflect the most recent updates from Transport Canada. 

Following Sunday's tragic crash involving an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, which killed all 157 people on board, countries and airlines around the world have taken measures to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleets.

Sunday's incident marked the second time a Boeing 737 MAX 8 has crashed within a five month period. 

Following mounting pressure from airlines and countries around the world, and anxious travellers across Canada, Canada's Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau made the call today to suspend all service on the Boeing 737 MAX 8. 

Reports say the decision to ground the planes in Canada was made after a review of the evidence about the aircraft.

Canada joins a wave of other countries who have already blocked the Boeing 737 MAX 8 from flying in their airspace. The U.S., notably, grounded its 737 MAX 8s and MAX 9s earlier this afternoon as well. 

Here's what we actually know

While reports claim that there are similarities in the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash, citing that vertical speed was unstable after take off, as of right now, nobody really knows why Flight ET302 crashed.

Boeing stands by its 737 MAX 8 fleet, and as of yesterday, had updated its statement to reiterate the following:

"Safety is Boeing’s number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets. The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.

When Sunwing grounded its four 737 MAX 8s late last night, the airline stressed the decision wasn't based on a safety issue, but rather, "for evolving commercial reasons unrelated to safety, including airspace restrictions being imposed by some of our partner destinations.”

Options for passengers 

All Boeing 737 MAX 8 flights offered by Air Canada, Sunwing, and and WestJet have been grounded, meaning 41 aircraft have been affected.

All three airlines have issued statements regarding next steps for passengers.

Air Canada said in a statement that “it will comply immediately with Transport Canada's safety notice.”

Air Canada's cancellation and rebooking policies are in place with a “full fee waiver for affected customers,” the company stated.

“We are working to rebook impacted customers as soon as possible but given the magnitude of our 737 MAX operations which on average carry nine to twelve thousand customers per day, customers can expect delays in rebooking and in reaching Air Canada call centres and we appreciate our customers' patience,” the airline stated.

Air Canada further advised its customers to check the status of their flight on prior to going to the airport.

Sunwing's MAX 8 makes up less than 10 per cent of the airline's fleet. 

The airline said in a statement:

"Sunwing Airlines supports Transport Canada's decision on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and will continue to advise on this situation. We are currently finalizing a revised schedule to accommodate the temporary withdrawal of our MAX flight service. We thank our partners and customers for their patience as we continue to provide these updates. We will strive to minimize the impact of these schedule changes and we do not plan to cancel flights."

Sunwing's newest MAX only arrived on Monday and another one is in Toronto this week for routine maintenance, PAX has learned. The leisure carrier is also coming out of its peak season and is expected to shrink its fleet for summer anyways, so the impact from the decision may be minimal. 

WestJet also issued a statement today:

“We respect the decision made by Transport Canada and are in the process of grounding the 13 MAX aircraft in our fleet. This decision has an impact on the travel plans of our WestJet guests and we ask for understanding as we work to rebook all guests affected as quickly as possible,” the company wrote.

The airline reiterated that it has "162 aircraft or more than 92 per cent of our overall fleet that remain in service.

The company added that guests can book “with confidence knowing that we continue to fly throughout the network with the safety of guests and employees at the forefront.”

WestJet said it will be “contacting impacted guests to arrange for alternate travel plans.”

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