IATA expects it could take until August before the Boeing 737 MAX returns to service, Boeing Co. has told one of the biggest 737 Max buyers, budget carrier SpiceJet, that the grounded jet should be back in the air by July, signalling a quicker return for the plane than many in the industry expect.
“The timeline that’s been communicated to us based on their experience is July-end of June basically,” SpiceJet’s Chief Financial Officer Kiran Koteshwar said in an interview.
“We are expecting it to be July.” That’s a more bullish timeline than most regulators and airlines have predicted after the best-selling jet was grounded worldwide in March following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
European regulators assessing proposed changes to the Max are planning to scrutinise the jet’s entire flight-control system before a return to the skies can be approved, while US aviation regulators said they won’t rush the matter. Regulators in Indonesia, one of the biggest markets for the plane, has signalled it may keep the jet parked until next year.
All the other regulators will also have to be happy with them, Koteshwar said. But he said Boeing is pretty confident it will get all approvals by July. Representatives for Boeing India didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
– Compensation talks –
Officials from China, Canada and the European Union have signalled they intend to independently review changes to the Boeing planes before allowing flights to resume. South Korean authorities are also said to be making their own decision, after closely monitoring steps taken by regulators in Europe and China.
SpiceJet has been in talks with Boeing for compensation although it hasn’t yet received any, Koteshwar said. The amount will depend on how long the plane stays on the ground, he said.
The carrier, which had taken delivery of 13 Max jets before the model was grounded, still expects to receive as many as 25 more in the current financial year. It has as many as 205 of those aircraft on order, including options.
– IATA’s timeframe –
However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects it could take until August before the Boeing 737 MAX returns to service, the airline group’s head said on Wednesday, adding that the final say on the timing rested with regulators.
The 737 MAX was grounded globally in March after a crash in Ethiopia killed all 157 people on board, the model’s second deadly crash in five months. “We do not expect something before 10 to 12 weeks in re-entry into service,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac told reporters in Seoul.
“But it is not our hands. That is in the hands of regulators.” IATA plans to organise a summit with airlines, regulators and Boeing in 5 to 7 weeks to discuss what is needed for the 737 MAX to return to service, he said.
The airline industry has had a tough six months with fuel, labour and infrastructure costs increasing and trade tensions rising in addition to the 737 MAX grounding, de Juniac said. IATA’s December forecast for $35.5 billion in industry profits in 2019 is expected to be lowered in an update at its annual meeting in Seoul on June 2.
At an IATA meeting for 737 MAX operators in Montreal last week, airline members said they wanted regulators to cooperate closely on the decision for the plane’s re-entry to service, de Juniac said. “We hope that they will align their timeframe,” he said of regulators.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects to approve the jet’s return to service as soon as late June, representatives of the US air regulator informed members of the United Nations’ aviation agency in a private briefing last week, sources said.
US operators United Airlines, Southwest Airlines , and American Airlines have removed the planes from their flight schedules until early to mid August.
By Dominic C. Odoh
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