Asia-based Airlines First to Ban Operations of Boeing 737 MAX 8

Following the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, several Asian airlines have suspended flights involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8. On Sunday, Flight 302 carrying 157 passengers and crew crashed just outside of Addis Ababa six minutes into its flight. At this point it’s unclear what caused the accident, but there are concerns that the crash in Ethiopia may be linked to the Lion Air crash in October 2018 in which 189 passengers and crew lost their lives. The Lion Air crash also involved the Boeing 737 Max 8, which crashed 13 minutes into its flight.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China was the first aviation regulator globally to suspend airline operations involving the Boeing jets. This order issued on Monday applies to 96 jets operated by 13 domestic airlines including China Southern, Air China, and Shanghai Airlines. Following China’s decision, Indonesia’s Director General of Air Transport on Monday also prohibited domestic airlines from using the Boeing jet and announced it would carry out inspections on each jet used by its domestic carriers. Indonesia’s Lion Air operates 10 of the country’s 11 MAX 8 jets. South Korea and Mongolia, with one Max 8 jet each in operation, followed suit on Tuesday. On Tuesday also, Singapore and Australia went a step further and grounded all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX jets from operation pending more information about the recent crash. Malaysia, despite having no MAX 8 jets in its domestic fleet, banned the plane from taking off, landing, and transiting through Malaysian airports. India, which initially imposed additional interim safety requirements, decided to ground all MAX 8 jets late Tuesday night.  

The U.S., meanwhile, was one of last major economies to ground the MAX 8 jet. It did so Wednesday afternoon despite sanctioning the jet’s operations by U.S. airlines on Monday. This move followed the Canadian Ministry of Transportation’s reversal of its decision to allow the MAX 8 jet to operate, citing new information linking the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes. Boeing, the plane’s Chicago, Illinois-based manufacturer, has maintained that the MAX jets are safe and that the company has been working on flight control software enhancements for the entire MAX fleet since the Lion Air crash. The MAX 8 jet began operations in 2017 and was touted as a new fuel-efficient version of the company’s 50-year-old 737 model. The company has 4,700 orders booked for the new jet and has delivered 370 to various customers around the world. It’s unclear whether the recent suspensions of the jet will affect Boeing’s future deliveries. Airlines that have implemented suspensions, however, have reported minimal flight delays as the MAX 8 jet gets switched with other models to carry out flights.