Note: After 2p 12 Mar 2019 update this post will no longer be updated. Enough countries and airlines have made the move that further tracking seems pointless until the FAA finally comes on board.
Update @ 2:00p EDT 12 Mar 2019 to include all of EASA airspace & India
Update @ 1:00p EDT 12 Mar 2019 to include Netherlands airspace and Turkish
Update @ 11:35a EDT 12 Mar 2019 to add Ireland, France and Germany airspace
Update @ 10:45a EDT 12 Mar 2019 to add TUI & Icelandair
Update @ 10:00a EDT 12 Mar 2019 to add UK CAA, Norwegian
Update @ 8:24a EDT 12 Mar 2019 to add Oman, S. Korea, Singapore & Australia
Update @ 8:45p EDT 11 Mar 2019 to add MIAT, GOL, Aeromexico
Update @ 6:37p EDT 11 Mar 2019 to add Argentina union position
Update @ 3:23p EDT 11 Mar 2019 to add Royal Air Maroc & flight attendant unions
Update @ 1:10p EDT 11 Mar 2019 to add Comair (South Africa)
Update @ 7:40a EDT 11 Mar 2019 to add Indonesia and Ethiopia actions
The full list of airlines or regulatory agencies where 737 MAX operations are suspended
- China (93)
- Indonesia (11)
- Cayman Airways (2)
- Ethiopia (4)
- Comair (South Africa)/BA Franchise (1)
- Royal Air Maroc (2)
- MIAT Mongolian (1)
- GOL (7)
- Aeromexico (6)
- Aerolineas Argentinas (5)
- South Korea (2)
- Singapore (6)
- Australia (0)
- Oman (5)
- Malaysia (0)
- United Kingdom (6+)
- Norwegian (18)
- TUI (15, though 6 are UK above)
- Icelandair (3)
- Ireland (0)
- Germany (0)
- Netherlands (see TUI above)
- Turkish Airlines (12)
- EASA/European Union (33, including some already listed above)
- India (4)
Original story (with some narrative updates) below
The Boeing 737 MAX suffered its second catastrophic accident in five months this morning. Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, a 737 MAX from Addis Ababa scheduled to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed shortly after departure. The pilot reported issues with the aircraft and received clearance to return to the tower; all souls on board perished. While the investigation remains ongoing and in the very early stages the MAX now faces operational limits around the globe.
China Grounds the 737 MAX
There are zero Chinese 737 MAX aircraft currently airborne. That is highly unusual for a typical Monday morning in China. Reports suggest that the type is now “suspended” or grounded in China.
Caijing.com exclusively learned that since yesterday, the domestic airlines have stopped running most of the Boeing 737MAX, and many routes have been converted to 737-800. In addition, the industry has revealed that the company has also received a notice from the Civil Aviation Administration, requiring the domestic aviation department to suspend the operation of 737MAX.
This morning, some insiders revealed to the financial network that the domestic aviation department has received a notice from the Civil Aviation Administration that the 737 MAX has been suspended. The Beijing departure flight of 737MAX has been adjusted to 737-800.
While any national aviation regulator can determine which aircraft are certified to operate in their airspace or by their airlines it is uncommon for a regulator to make such a move separate from the national authority in the plane’s home country. In this case it would be expected that other countries would follow the FAA’s lead on any such moves. China is not waiting for that action, however. China has also waited longer than other authorities in approving aircraft to enter service. Some have argued that those decisions arepartially politically motivated. In this case it seems highly unlikely that politics are in play.
Chinese airspace is nearly devoid of 737 MAX traffic early on this Monday morning; a week ago nearly two dozen MAX were operating flights.
Cayman Airways suspends MAX ops
Shortly after the news surfaced out of China, Cayman Airways also announced that it was voluntarily grounding its 737 MAX aircraft effective Monday morning local time.
While the cause of this sad loss is undetermined at this time, we stand by our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first by maintaining complete and undoubtable safe operations, and as such, we have taken the decision to suspend operations of both our new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, effective from Monday March 11, 2019, until more information is received.-Cayman Airways President and CEO, Fabian Whorms
This grounding does not appear to be required by Cayman regulators but is described by the airline as part of “prudent and necessary” measures related to passenger safety. The carrier operates one MAX 8 and took delivery of its second last week; it has not yet entered commercial service.
Indonesia Acts, too
The Indonesian government announced late Monday afternoon local time that it, too, would ground the 737 MAX type in the search for answers. Reuters reports that the aircraft are to be inspected before returning to service.
One of the steps that is being taken by the air transport directorate is conducting an inspection by temporarily grounding (Boeing 737 Max 8 planes), to ensure that this type of aircraft is airworthy.– Polana Pramesti, Indonesian Director General of Civil Aviation
The first crash was a 737 MAX operated by Lion Air in Indonesia, but the type was not grounded at that time. With this move the Lion Air fleet will see 10 planes out of service until the inspections are complete. Garuda Indonesia also operates one 737MAX aircraft.
It is unclear, however, exactly what Indonesian authorities will be seeking inspection of as part of the checks. Without a clear guidance on what failed (or even confirmation that the two incidents are linked) this could prove a challenging directive to execute on.
Ethiopian grounds its fleet
Ethiopian Airlines also chose to ground its fleet as a result of the incident.
Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as an extra safety precaution
The carrier has four 737 MAX 8 aircraft remaining in its fleet after Sunday’s accident and 25 more on order.
Comair grounds MAX
The Comair operation in South Africa will not be flying its 737 MAX 8 aircraft anytime soon. The airline acknowledges that neither regulators nor Boeing call for the type to be removed from service. Still, citing the “safety and confidence” of passengers, the type will not fly for the carrier going forward until the concerns are allayed. Like others, however, details on what much happen for the plane to return to service remain unclear.
The carrier currently operates one 737 MAX 8 aircraft (ZS-ZCA) on its domestic South African route network. Comair operates under the British Airways franchise in South Africa.
Another Africa Grounding
Royal Air Maroc joins Ethiopian and Comair as African carriers halting service on the 737 MAX pending further investigations. Reuters reports that the carrier will stop commercial flights with its first MAX and not press the recently delivered second into service “until Boeing completes investigations into the aircraft type.”
Spreading in the Americas
In addition to the Argentinian pilots union mentioned below (the airline is not acceding to that mandate) two other airlines in the Americas are now halting operations of their 737 MAX aircraft. Brazil’s GOL will ground its fleet of 7 MAX frames effective at 8p local time tonight.
Aeromexico operates six of the type and will similarly ground them pending additional details from the investigation into the ET302 crash.
Unions weigh in
The call for an investigation was echoed by the AFA-CWA, a flight attendant union representing 50,000 crew across 20 airlines. The group “is formally requesting the FAA conduct an investigation into the 737 MAX.” That union represents the crew on United Airlines and is reporting that those employees can swap off a MAX scheduled flight, though it is defined as a personal day and may be charged against them, pending further negotiations.
The APFA, representing the 27,000 flight attendants of American Airlines stopped short of such such demands, noting that it is monitoring the investigation and awaiting further details before acting.
APLA, the union representing the pilots of Aerolineas Argentinas, issued a mandate to its members that they refuse flights operated by the 737 MAX type. The carrier operates five currently. The union cites the decision taken by other carriers to ground their MAXen in its justification for the move. The government and airline now agree with the union position, grounding the fleet. The airline notes that the action was “taken after the joint analysis carried out with the ANAC, the regulatory authority of the air sector in the country.”
More groundings in Asia-Pacific
Tuesday morning saw three more countries join the growing tide of national regulators stopping 737 MAX services. Singapore and South Korea issued such rules, stopping flights by SilkAir (6 frames) and Eastar Jet (2 frames), respectively.
Australia also blocked 737 MAX operations in its airspace, though the country does not have any airlines operating the type yet. The move will affect Fiji Air, however, as that carrier operates some of its services to Sydney and Brisbane on the type. Those two aircraft are not grounded, but will see their route profile adjusted.
Similar to Australia, Malaysia is prohibiting operations of the type in its airspace. No Malaysian airlines fly the 737MAX currently but multiple international carriers fly the MAX into the country. Those flights will need to be on different aircraft or canceled.
United Kingdom blocks the 737 MAX
The UK Civil Aviation Authority decided Tuesday afternoon to ground the 737 MAX. The ruling impacts local carrier TUI Airways and its fleet of six, but also many other airlines.
Foreign airlines flying the 737 MAX to or over the UK include Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, Icelandair, Norwegian, LOT.
With the UK move affecting a portion of TUI’s operations the group chose to ground all its 737 MAX frames across multiple operators. It currently has 15 of the type in multiple countries.
Icelandair needs access to the UK airspace for its 737 MAX flights into Europe. With that closed the carrier is halting services on the type.
Norwegian says nope
Mere minutes after the UK CAA grounded the type Norwegian did the same. The group operates 18 737 MAX in its current fleet, including flights across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States and Canada.
In response to the temporary suspension of Being 737 MAX operations by multiple aviation authorities we have taken the decision to not operate flights using this aircraft type until advised otherwise by the relevant aviation authorities. We would like to apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused, however, safety will always remain our top priority.Tomas Hesthammer, Norwegian’s acting Chief Operating Officer
Late Tuesday afternoon local time both Ireland and Germany also ordered their airspace closed to the 737MAX type. Most affected airline already halted their operations, though Air Canada and WestJet will be affected by the Ireland policy. France joined shortly thereafter. The individual countries are issuing the decisions based on EASA guidance. Presumably the rest of the EU will be closed to 737 MAX operations within the next few hours.
Most operators of the MAX, including the US carriers, continue to operate the type while monitoring the investigation and Boeing’s response. Less than half the delivered fleet remains in service, mostly in the US and Canada.
It remains too early to judge the overall impact of the pair of crashes on the 737 MAX and its future. Still, these groundings – and the uncertainty – is bad news for Boeing. China represents hundreds of known orders for the type and likely many more, buried in Boeing’s books under leasing companies and unidentified customers. The order book in Indonesia is similarly massive. Vietnam, too. Without answers those numbers are at risk.
*Separate from the safety concerns, India’s Jet Airways has five 737 MAX planes from its fleet grounded because it cannot afford the lease payments on the new aircraft.