India Relaxes Boeing 737 MAX Flight Prohibition

India has moved a step closer to recertifying the Boeing 737 MAX. While domestic carriers can’t yet fly the jet with passengers, it can once again fly in the country’s airspace. Today, the Indian regulator, the DGCA, issued an order on the topic, superseding its grounding order published in March 2019.

Boeing 737 MAX, India, Partial Recertification
India has relaxed the 737 MAX rules for foreign-registered aircraft. Photo: Boeing

Around the world, the Boeing 737 MAX return is gathering steam as each month goes past. It’s been over two years since the type was first grounded, and by now, most major civil aviation authorities have given the type the green light. However, some notable exceptions remain. Namely India and China.

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India issues new guidance for the Boeing 737 MAX

India today issued new guidance for the 737 MAX. This covers both the -8 and -9 models of the jet and applies to all carriers operating the jet within Indian airspace. The general order remains that, since March 13th, 2019, airlines shall not use the MAX within Indian airspace. However, a couple of exceptions have been added to the blanket rule.

Firstly, foreign-registered MAX aircraft currently grounded in India are permitted to be ferried out of the country following an operational readiness flight. Additionally, with permission from the DGCA, foreign-registered 737 MAX aircraft will be able to overfly Indian airspace. It appears that flights to and from Indian airports are still prohibited for foreign operators.

Boeing 737 MAX, India, Partial Recertification
Indian carriers remain unable to fly the 737 MAX, except for one-off flights with authorization. Photo: Boeing

While these notes regarding foreign-registered aircraft are new, it is still the case that domestic aircraft needing to be moved for storage, repairs, alterations, or maintenance will be issued a special flight permit by the DGCA to facilitate the flight.

Who will benefit from the announcement?

Clearly, Indian airlines will not benefit from the change in rules announced by the DGCA. After all, their MAX jets remain grounded. However, one airline that is likely to benefit is flydubai. The airline has previously put in a request with the DGCA to be permitted to fly to and over Indian airspace.

Last week Simple Flying reported that the Indian authorities had denied this request. Now, with the latest update to the rules, the airline will once again be able to apply for such permission. However, it may only cover overflights for the time being. The news will also be welcomed by lessors looking to reclaim MAX aircraft previously delivered to Jet Airways.

Boeing 737 MAX, India, Partial Recertification
flydubai will be likely to benefit from the new rules announced today. Photo: flydubai

The news is generally good for the 737 MAX program. By allowing overflights of the type, the DGCA has shown its confidence in the aircraft. After all, if it were worried that something was likely to happen, it wouldn’t permit any MAX operations. It remains unclear when precisely the aircraft will receive a blanket green light from India.

What do you make of India’s slight 737 MAX rule relaxation? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!