At the end of 2021, about one month ago, Ethiopian Airlines revealed that it was planning to bring the Boeing 737 MAX back into service in February 2022. The day appears to be fast approaching, as the airline took to Twitter on January 23rd to announce that it was “only a few days away” from returning the MAX back to the skies.
A “a few days away”
Taking to Twitter, Ethiopian Airlines said it was just days away from resuming 737 MAX service. Noting the infamous and tragic history the airline has had with the aircraft, it assured the public that the decision had come only after”intense recertification by multiple regulatory bodies.” The airline also called itself a “safety-first airline,” adding that its pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, and cabin crew are fully prepared to resume operating the aircraft type.
Not quite the last operator to resume MAX operations
In August of 2020, Simple Flying had the opportunity to talk to Esayas WoldeMariam, acting Chief Commercial Officer at Ethiopian Airlines. The airline executive asserted that his firm wanted to be the last airline to start flying the 737 MAX after tragedy struck in 2019.
“After it is tried, tested and trusted, we will be the last one to start flying it because we really value the life of our customers … We have been traumatized with what has already happened. So, we would be the last one to start flying it.”
While Ethiopian Airlines is far from the first to resume MAX operations (that honor went to Brazilian carrier GOL), it is not quite the last. Indeed, Russia and China have yet to officially authorize commercial passenger operations for the 737 MAX- although the latter seems quite close.
With upwards of 175 countries having already recertified the jet, political tensions are suspected to be one key factor prolonging the resumption of flights in both Russia and China. Ethiopian Airlines’ hesitancy, however, stems from its position as the last victim before the latest 737 family was grounded to fix the flaws in its design.
Destinations have already been planned
It would appear that the airline is roughly one week away from resuming operations. On February 1st, one of the airline’s 737 MAX 8s will operate an irregular service to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. From there, the type will fly from Addis Ababa to a number of destinations across Africa:
- Addis Ababa (ADD) to Mombasa (MBA): February 1st only
- Addis Ababa (ADD) to Entebbe (EBB): from February 2nd; 28 departures by the MAX in the month
- Addis Ababa (ADD) to Enugu, Nigeria (ENU): from February 2nd; 12 departures
- Addis Ababa (ADD) to Goma (GOM); February 3rd, 7th, 9th
- Istanbul (IST): from February 4th; 15 departures
- Cairo (CAI): from February 5th; four departures
- Khartoum (KRT): from February 5th; eight departures
With well over half a million flight hours logged as of October 2021 in countries all over the world, the 737 MAX now appears to be a safe aircraft. Intense scrutiny by aviation regulators worldwide have ensured that the tragedies that befell Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air will not be repeated. With this in mind, Ethiopian Airlines is likely anxious to get its aircraft back in the air, allowing for much-needed capacity in both the passenger cabin and cargo hold.