Today, Canadian carrier WestJet has revealed that it plans to return the Boeing 737 MAX to passenger service in two weeks. The carrier’s decision will depend on the Canadian aviation agency, Transport Canada, approving the type’s return to service as planned.
Around the world, countries have slowly been recertifying the Boeing 737 MAX following a 20-month grounding of the type. The first operators have already returned the aircraft to service, including American Airlines in the United States. While others like Southwest aren’t rushing to bring the MAX back into use, many airlines in other countries are keen to keep the gap between approval and return to service as short as possible.
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January 21st return
Today, WestJet revealed that it is aiming to return the Boeing 737 MAX to service on January 21st. The airline still has a couple of issues to resolve before this can be a reality. So far, the biggest hurdle to overcome will actually not be the responsibility of WestJet.
The airline noted that Transport Canada has yet to give the 737 MAX clearance to carry passengers in Canadian airspace. The airline instead emphasized that it is giving advanced warning of its plan to fly the aircraft so that it doesn’t come as a surprise when Transport Canada does approve flights.
According to the WestJet booking engine, the first MAX flight with passengers will be WS658. The flight is due to depart Calgary at 08:00, arriving in Toronto after three hours and 51 minutes at 13:51.
Commenting on the return to service WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims said,
“As we continue working with Transport Canada on the additional Canadian requirements, our first MAX will be ready to return safely to service as of January 21… The deliberate, detailed and independent scrutiny applied by Transport Canada’s National Aircraft Certification team, which prescribed additional requirements to pilot procedures and training, provides further confidence in the aircraft and its safe return.”
How will Alaska handle the service return?
Like most carriers, WestJet is starting small with the aircraft’s return to service. For the first month of operation, the airline is only planning three round trips per week with the aircraft. All of these will be between Toronto and Calgary. These will only come after non-commercial test flights of the aircraft starting in mid-January. Following four weeks of the limited schedule, the Canadian airline will assess how it can increase its network and frequencies.
WestJet will be offering passengers flexibility if they don’t wish to fly on the 737 MAX, to begin with. With six daily connections between the two cities, there will be plenty of other flights that those not wishing to fly on the type can move onto.
WestJet currently has 13 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet. At the moment, it is unclear when rival airline Air Canada will resume 737 MAX flights.
Are you pleased to see WestJet resuming flights with the 737 MAX? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!