Dubai: Boeing said early on Wednesday that its grounded 737 Max jets will not return to service until the middle of 2020, pushing back on its earlier forecast for a December 2019 return.
The US plane manufacturer said in a statement that while it is up to global aviation regulators to determine when the Maxs will return to service, it is informing its customers that it is “currently estimating that the ungrounding of the 737 Max will begin during mid-2020.”
Returning the Max safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen. We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 Max has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers, and the flying public.
Boeing’s 737 Max model has been grounded across the world since March 2019 after two fatal crashes involving the model. Boeing 737 Max planes operated by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airways crashed, killing everyone on board, due to a software issue that forced the planes to plummet shortly after take-off.
Boeing had earlier said it expects the 737 Max to return to the air in December 2019, a date that was later pushed to early 2020. But even as Boeing was giving those forecasts, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the regulator monitoring the re-certification process, declined to provide a timeline.
In its latest statement, Boeing said its estimate of a mid-2020 return was meant “to help customers and suppliers plan their operations.” It said mid-2020 was its “best estimate of when regulators will begin to authorise the ungrounding of the 737 Max.”
“This updated estimate is informed by our experience to date with the certification process,” Boeing said. “It is subject to our ongoing attempts to address known schedule risks and further developments that may arise in connection with the certification process.”
“Returning the Max safely to service is our number one priority, and we are confident that will happen. We acknowledge and regret the continued difficulties that the grounding of the 737 Max has presented to our customers, our regulators, our suppliers, and the flying public.”
Boeing said it will provide more details on the matter next week when it announces its financial results for 2019.
In the UAE, budget carrier flydubai is the only local operator of 737 Max, and the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority has been adamant that it will conduct its own tests on the 737 Maxs even after the model is certified by American regulators.
Flydubai has already seen a “significant impact” on its earnings from the grounding of its 13 Max jets. It reported Dh196.7 million in losses in the first half of 2019 as it had to reduce its capacity and operations.
The airline’s chairman told reporters in November that he expects flydubai to continue seeing a significant impact on earnings as the grounding continues. The carrier said it is attempting to mitigate the impact of the grounding by looking at opportunities for short-term and medium-term leasing of aircraft. It has already extended the lease on two Boeing Next Generation 737-800 jets, and finalised a deal to wet lease four aircraft of the same model.
As for Boeing, it has been seeking to “restore confidence” of its investors and customers, and changed leadership in late December. Chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg resigned from his position, and was replaced by current chairman David Calhoun.
Boeing said it is attempting to “repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders.”