Norwegian Air have stopped sales of tickets on routes normally serviced by their fleet of eighteen Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Operator confidence in the 737 MAX 8 has plummeted since the Ethiopian Airlines crash this year, and in the shadow of a similar incident with Lion Air last year. This has prompted many carriers to abandon the aircraft until issues have been fixed. Norwegian Air is now rerouting or reallocating, and even rebooking flights where necessary to meet the seating shortfall.
Norwegian Air will substitute its 737 MAX 8 routes with other aircraft, offering passengers rebookings as necessary. In this way, they intend to alleviate the pressure caused by the removal of the suspect aircraft. The company is already updating its Ireland-U.S. flight schedule as well as offering a flight between Dublin and Hamilton, Toronto. Norwegian Air hopes to offer additional flights to this new destination using a Boeing 737-800 initially.
The economic 737-800 model has been certified under Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standard (ETOPS). This will allow it to fly the direct route between the two countries on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday each week. Additionally, the aircraft will be completing regular flights between Dublin and Providence on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Norwegian Air have confirmed that customers booked on flights between Providence and Cork, can be rotated onto the Providence to Dublin flights using the 737-800 service. The company is also hoping to fill their Shannon-New York-Stewart customers’ spaces by combining Dublin to New York and Providence flights. The company will use a bus transfer service for travellers where necessary.
Long term plans
With this need to supply alternative aircraft to the 737 MAX 8, the company’s long-term strategy has been thrown into turmoil. Norwegian Air had planned to sell off six of its 737-800 aircraft and take up the flight capacity with the fleet of 787 aircraft on high capacity routes. The company now plans to wet lease, where necessary, to maintain capacity. This is an arrangement where an airline provides an aircraft, complete crew, maintenance, and insurance to another airline to take up any shortfalls in their operations.
Senate takes charge
And the 737 MAX issues continue. On the 27th March, the U.S. Senate began a hearing into the two fatal crashes. Senate plans to call representatives from Boeing and selected carriers to discuss the cause of the accidents and understand possible fixes that will see the aircraft allowed back into service.
A software fix developed by Boeing is close to being implemented across the board. Carriers such as Norwegian Air are unlikely to reinstate the aircraft without extensive testing by Boeing in place. It is hoped that this will provide the necessary evidence that the manufacturer has eliminated the problem with their aircraft.
Norwegian Air are currently keeping customers up to date with the 737 MAX 8 issues on their website. Travellers are advised to check this for the latest information on their flight plans and aircraft.