China: The Big Question Mark In The 737 MAX Saga

There has been significant progress in the reintroduction of the Boeing 737 MAX in the last few months. Aviation bodies across the continents have been sharing positive updates regarding the jet’s reentry to service. However, what is the current situation regarding the plane in China?

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China was heavily relying on the 737 MAX before the plane’s grounding. Photo: Getty Images

Major progress across the globe

According to The Economic Times, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said this week that there was “no set timetable” for the resumption of services of the 737 MAX in the country. The nation was quick to suspend flights with the plane following two fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019. The type had since been universally grounded for passenger operations since March of last year, but there was a significant breakthrough on Wednesday. The United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the 737 MAX plane to fly once again.

There is still some work to do for the plane to hit the skies with airlines. For instance, modifications will need to be completed.

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There has been optimism surrounding the return of the 737 MAX in continents such as North America and Europe. Photo: Getty Images

Still some way to go in China

However, Chinese regulators are still holding out about clearing the plane. They state that the results of investigations into the tragic crashes “must be made clear” and that the plane design improvement must be “effective.”

Carriers in the United States are already planning their schedules to reintroduce the plane. For example, United Airlines has said that it will begin flying it again in the first quarter of next year. Meanwhile, American Airlines shared that it will resume non-passenger flights in early December and then passenger operations shortly after.

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US carriers are motioning the return of the jet. Photo: Getty Images

Chinese carriers don’t have the same luxury in their structures. With no clearance as of yet, their 737 MAXs will likely remain on the ground for several more months. The global health crisis has shaken up air travel this year. When it comes to China and the surrounding regions, domestic services are performing much stronger than international operations. China has recovered to around pre-pandemic levels in the domestic realm. So, the MAX would fare well on cross-country trips within the nation.

A strong presence

Bloomberg highlights that there were just under 100 MAXs flying in Chinese airspace before the grounding, making it a vital market for the plane. The Big Three carriers in the country – Air China (16), China Eastern (14 – including subsidiary Shanghai Airlines), and China Southern (24) are all customers of the jet. Moreover, there are approximately 10 other operators in the nation with the aircraft.

Altogether, the grounding of the 737 MAX may not have heavily impacted operations as expected this year due to the pandemic. However, when domestic and regional activity continues to improve in 2021, the MAX would be a welcome addition in the air for several carriers in China.

What are your thoughts about the return of the Boeing 737 MAX? Will you be flying on the plane soon after its reintroduction for commercial services? Let us know what you think of the aircraft in the comment section.