Carriers Absorb MAX Grounding

Air Canada and WestJet flight schedules appear to have recovered from the grounding of their Boeing 737 MAX fleets in the wake of the fatal crash in Eithiopia last Sunday. The grounding on Thursday took less than 10 percent of the carriers’ fleets out of service but because the new Boeings were concentrated on domestic routes there was considerable disruption in the first couple of days. By Saturday, there were few delays or cancellations being displayed by either airline. Sunwing also pulled its four leased MAX 8s from service about 12 before the order came from Transport Canada.

Sunwing made the call based on customer concerns, concerns that were also being expressed by Air Canada and WestJet customers in the four days between the crash and the grounding. Both airlines were inundated with requests from passengers to switch flights to different aircraft after mounting evidence that the Ethiopian crash was similar to one in Indonesia five months earlier in which a Malaysian Airlines MAX 8 dove into the ocean off Jakarta. In both instances, a control issue related to a stall prevention system in the airliner is being implicated. The U.S. followed Canada in banning MAX 8 flights and Boeing is issuing a software update it says will resolve the issues with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was installed in MAX 8s to counter an increased tendency for the new airplanes to stall compared to older versions.