WestJet Becomes The Fifth Carrier To Resume 737 MAX Flights

WestJet operated today its first commercial flight using a Boeing 737 MAX since March 2019. The airline’s flight WS115 departed from Calgary to Vancouver. The airline became the first Canadian carrier to bring back the MAX and the fifth worldwide.

WestJet 737 MAX 8
WestJet resumed today the commercial flights with its Boeing 737 MAX fleet. Photo: Getty Images

The MAX came back: where will it fly?

Onboard WestJet’s first commercial Boeing 737 MAX flight in 22 months were 71 people. These included guests, cabin crew, and members of the airlines’ Unions. Flight WS115 landed in Vancouver at 8:30 local time, right on time.

In a press conference, Captain Scott Wilson, who operated WS115, described the flight as uneventful. Ed Sims, WestJet president, and CEO said,

“The return of WestJet’s MAX aircraft marks an operational milestone after 22 months of intense review and considerable learning. WestJet’s preparation, our processes, our diligence, and, of course, our philosophy of safety above all other considerations have brought us to this point today.”

Starting January 22, the MAX will operate three-times-weekly flights between Calgary and Toronto, said the company in a statement.

Currently, WestJet has a fleet of 13 Boeing 737 MAX, of which only three are fit, at the moment, for commercial service. That’s why the Canadian airline is deploying its MAX planes in only one route. Eventually, it will use the narrowbody on other routes and destinations.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

WestJet B737 max
WestJet will start using the MAX on its Calgary-Toronto route. Photo: WestJet

The MAX is safer than ever

Captain David Colquhoun, WestJet Master Executive Council Chair at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), was also commanding flight WS155. He stated that he has complete trust in the recertification process of the Boeing 737 MAX. He said,

“Boeing has redesigned the system that failed. Transport Canada and other regulators have reevaluated the airworthiness of the aircraft and how they certify it. Airlines such as WestJet have redesigned training profiles for pilots, and have allowed us to participate in this process.”

Earlier this week, Transport Canada introduced additional requirements to allow the return to service of the MAX. For example, it published an Interim Order indicating Transport Canada’s expectations and requirements for crew members’ additional training.

Nevertheless, Transport Canada lifted the existing Notice to Airmen, prohibiting the MAX commercial operation in Canadian airspace on January 20, 2021. Right after that, both WestJet and Air Canada announced the resumption of commercial flights. Air Canada will do so starting on February 1.

So far, five countries have recertified the MAX: the US, Brazil, Mexico, Panama, and Canada. The European Union is expected to join next week. Five airlines have resumed operations with the MAX: GOL, Aeromexico, American Airlines, Copa Airlines, and WestJet.

Transparency matters

WestJet is aware of the general lack of confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX. The aircraft was involved in two deadly accidents with 346 fatalities in 2018 and 2019.

Therefore, the airline is being transparent with its customers, so they know they’ll be boarding a MAX aircraft. Scott Wilson said,

“We’re very transparent with how we brought the MAX back to service; everyone will know that they’re flying on a MAX. It will take a little time; we do know that some of the traveling public will have more concerns than others. But time will definitely show the safety of the MAX. This is the safest aircraft in the skies today.”

These flexible policies will remain for a long time, the airline said. “There is no end in sight at the moment.” 

Regarding the route operation, WestJet expects that the MAX will soon be exploring many of the routes it had before the grounding. For instance, in 2019, WestJet flew from Calgary to Hawai onboard the MAX. But there’s also more groundbreaking routes, like the Halifax-London, starting on April 25.

Are you eager to travel onboard WestJet’s MAX fleet? Let us know in the comments.