SpiceJet has delayed the planned return to service of the Boeing 737 MAX, which was scheduled for tomorrow. The October 5th return has been pushed back without a new date, leaving India with no MAX operators for a few more days or weeks. The decision comes as SpiceJet also faces a hefty parking bill for the grounded jets.
Just a day before taking to the skies, SpiceJet has pushed back the return of the 737 MAX. According to The Times Of India, the carrier has deferred the first ungrounding flight and has not announced a new date yet. SpiceJet announced last week that the 737 MAX would start flying again on 5th October.
This means all 13 MAX 8s will remain on the ground for a little while longer before returning to the skies. The decision comes as a surprise since SpiceJet was putting the finishing touches on the aircraft before taking off, including cleaning the cabins and final maintenance. Today, it was also revealed that SpiceJet is facing a considerable parking bill for the MAX’s, possibly delaying their return.
According to Business Today, Kolkata Airport will charge SpiceJet ₹5.5 crores ($737,950) as the parking fee for parking VT-MXA since March 2019. Considering the 13 MAXs across the country, the airline could be facing millions in parking charges alone. Add in SpiceJet’s dire finances and limited cash, and the airline could be looking at a tough time getting its planes out with partial or no payment.
In a statement, a Kolkata Airport official said,
“The SpiceJet B-737 Max 8 aircraft has been stationed at Kolkata airport since March 13, 2019. Now that the regulators have started allowing resumption of operations with the narrow-body aircraft, SpiceJet is planning to operate the grounded aircraft again from October 5. Once the plane rolls out of the bay, the airport will hand over the parking charge bill to the airline.”
The pushback of flights will be a blow to Boeing as well, which has been lobbying for the return of the MAX in India since its ungrounding in the US in December. However, this delay is likely to be short-term, and SpiceJet should have the planes in the air in the next few weeks at the most. It’s unclear how much it will pay for parking before taking back its aircraft.
The airline has already made substantial investments to prepare for the return of the MAX. Between its own simulator in Gurgaon and one set up by Boeing in Noida, the carrier has 350 pilots ready to fly the 737 MAX. As more deliveries come in the next few months, we are likely to see more of the pilots return to action in their aircraft.
The 737 MAX has an exciting future in India, with startup Akasa Air expected to announce its order of up to 100 jets in the coming weeks. Overall, the saga of the MAX continues, but a new chapter is on the horizon.
What do you think about SpiceJet’s delay of the 737 MAX ungrounding? Let us know in the comments!