Turkish Airlines Revises Its Boeing 737 MAX Order

Turkish national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines (THY), has revised its order with Boeing, canceling ten aircraft from its previously placed order for 75 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from the planemaker. In a statement made by the Istanbul-based carrier on Thursday to the Public Disclosure Platform (KAP), Turkish Airlines says that it has decided to cancel ten units and review its fleet due to the aviation downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Turkish Airlines, TC-LCA, Boeing 737-8 MAX
TC-LCA returned to service on April 15, 2021. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

In addition to the canceling of ten Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the Daily Sabha reports that a further 40 Boeing 737 MAX deliveries will now be turned into options. Turkish Airlines can exercise its option right, providing it gives Boeing a written notice on or before December 21, 2021. In its statement to the KAP, Turkish Airlines noted that 13 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that had not yet been delivered would be rescheduled in line with the airlines’ financial and operational capacity.

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Pre COVID-19 THY wanted 75 737 MAX aircraft

Before the ongoing COVID-19 medical emergency, Turkish Airlines decided to purchase 75 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft as it saw the plane as vital to its long-term narrowbody requirements. This has now changed due to COVID-19 and the dramatic effect it has had on the number of people flying.

Following the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, that killed 346 people, the Boeing 737 MAX was taken out of service and grounded while an investigation took place to determine the cause of the accidents.

After concluding that the planes Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)  was to blame for the fatal crashes, a fix was made to the MCAS software. The plane was cleared to return to the skies by the FAA in November 2020 and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in January 2021.

Turkish Airlines has 12 MAX aircraft

In December 2020, Turkish Airlines reached a settlement with Boeing over compensation for the worldwide grounding and the financial losses incurred. At the time of the grounding, Turkish Airlines had 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and one Boeing 737 MAX 9 in its fleet.

Turkish Airlines Revises Its Boeing 737 MAX Order
Turkish Airlines has 12 Boeing 737 MAX in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

With 12 MAX aircraft in its fleet, Turkish Airlines was keen to return the 737 MAX to service but had to wait until it was cleared by Turkey’s civil aviation authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). This happened last week, leading to speculation that Turkish Airlines would resume Boeing 737 MAX flights on Monday the 12th of April.

While this did not happen as speculated, the plane finally took to the skies again on Thursday the 15th of April.

TC-LCA is back in service

TC-LCA, a 2.7-year-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 took off from Istanbul Airport (IST) at 10:00 for a one-hour flight to the Turkish capital Ankara. The aircraft then rerouted back to Istanbul, landing at 13:00. Later in the afternoon, the plane took off again for the Aegean city of Izmir before landing back in Istanbul a 19:00.

So far, only TC-LCA has returned to service, but a couple of Turkish Airlines other MAX aircraft have performed test flights and should return to duty in the not too distant future.

Turkish Airlines parked 737 MAX
A Turkish Airlines Boeing 737 MAX in Seattle waiting to be delivered. Photo: Getty Images

While the grounding of the MAX was a huge event for airlines that had the aircraft in their fleets, it was nothing compared to the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry. For this reason, Turkish Airlines and others are busy looking at their order books and readjusting.

What do you think about Turkish Airlines canceling some of its MAX orders, and do you think other airlines could follow suit? Please tell us what you think in the comments.