WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it plans to resume flying its fleet of Boeing 737 Max passenger jets on Jan. 21, pending the federal government’s approval of safety changes to the plane.
Calgary-based WestJet said Wednesday that the Max will resume service with three round-trip flights a week between Calgary and Toronto and will add more routes later.
The Max was grounded worldwide in March, 2019, after two fatal crashes in five months, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killed a total of 346 people. After Boeing Co. made changes to the plane’s automated flight-control system, which had been linked to the disasters, the U.S. cleared the Max for service. Canada has yet to give final clearance to the changes and is requiring different cockpit procedures and training.
“As we continue working with Transport Canada on the additional Canadian requirements, our first Max will be ready to return safely to service as of January 21,” said Ed Sims, WestJet’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “While we don’t have final confirmation on when TC will open Canadian airspace to the 737 Max aircraft, in the interest of transparency we are sharing our intent to fly once this confirmation is received.”
WestJet has 13 of the aircraft, an updated version of the 737 that has been flying since the late 1960s and, before the fatalities, was Boeing’s bestseller. The Max is more fuel-efficient and has greater range than older models, which is why airlines are keen to resume flying the Max. However, they must assure customers the planes are safe.
WestJet said it wants to restore customer confidence in the planes and that travellers will know if they are scheduled to fly on one. “We will be forthcoming with our guests on where the Max aircraft are flying and we will be flexible with our change and cancel policy to ensure our guests can make their travel plans confidently,” Mr. Sims said.
The federal government has not said when the plane will receive approval to fly passengers again. Transport Minster Marc Garneau said in November that the review would conclude “soon.”
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