Ethiopian Airlines Resumes Passenger 737 MAX Flights

Ethiopian Airlines flew a passenger 737 MAX flight on February 1st – its first since the tragic crash in March 2019. While Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane has resumed flying for most airlines around the world, Tuesday’s flight was particularly significant as Ethiopian was one of two airlines that suffered fatalities due to the jet’s anomalies.

First passenger flight in three years

After nearly three years, Ethiopian Airlines flew Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane carrying passengers. The demonstration flight was initially scheduled to fly between Addis Ababa and Mombasa in Kenya but eventually flew within Ethiopia due to bad weather.

Among the passengers were diplomats, officials, and journalists. The airline’s acting Chief Commercial Officer Esayas WoldeMariam spoke while on the flight, stating,

“We made sure everything is in order, now we are doing…a demo flight so to speak. It is after this that we are availing it to commercial aviation.”

Ethiopian Airlines is among the last few carriers to resume MAX flights. China and Russia are the only countries left to authorize passenger flights on MAX jets.

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Mixed reactions

The flight, however, was not well-received by those directly affected by the 2019 crash, such as the family and friends of the victims. Many, including a lawyer representing the victim’s families, expressed disappointment with the airline’s decision to resume MAX services.

Ethiopian’s 2019 MAX flight to Nairobi had crashed minutes after take-off from the country’s capital Addis Ababa, killing 157 people onboard. Shocking revelations about faulty systems on the aircraft put tremendous pressure on Boeing to own up to the mistake and reach a compensation agreement with the victims’ families late last year.

Back after careful monitoring

Ethiopian’s move to add the 737 MAX to its regular schedule comes after months of observing the modification and restructuring process. The decision was taken only after the carrier was fully convinced that the jet’s systems and software changes were sufficient for a safe flight.

737 MAX 7
The 737 is the most delivered modern jet. Photo: Getty Images

As of October last year, the 737 MAX airplane had logged in over 500,000 flight hours across the world in 206,000 revenue flights. The jet has made an impressive comeback amid renewed confidence among major airlines, with Ryanair satisfied with its performance and Qatar Airways and India’s low-cost startup Akasa placing new orders.

Aware of the public and media scrutiny of such a move, Ethiopian’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam stated in December,

“In line with our initially stated commitment to become among the last airlines to return the B737-Max, we have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous recertification process and we have ensured that our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians and cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet.”

Indeed, the carrier has already planned to deploy the MAX to several destinations in the coming few days, including Entebbe, Istanbul, Dar es Salaam, Cairo, Nairobi, and Athens.

What are your thoughts on Ethiopian Airlines’ MAX flight resumption? Have you flown the MAX 737 after its recertification? Share your comments below.

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