Tuesday,  October 3, 2023  6:44 am

Air Canada & WestJet respond to Boeing 737 MAX 8 crisis

Air Canada & WestJet respond to Boeing 737 MAX 8 crisis
Air Canada and WestJet both operate the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which is under scrutiny after yesterday's fatal crash in Ethiopia.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians, on Sunday just months after a similar crash in Indonesia of the 737 MAX 8 is raising safety concerns over the popular Boeing aircraft.

The 737 MAX 8 plane that crashed yesterday, shortly after taking off from Bole airport in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, was heading to Nairobi.

The tragedy represents the second fatal crash involving a 737 MAX 8 plane within five months. The same aircraft model was involved in the Lion Air crash last October, which saw a two-month-old plane pummel into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people.

Shortly after the incident in Jakarta, Boeing issued a notice to airlines stating that faulty information from a sensor could have caused the plane to point its nose downwards, a warning that advised pilots to review in-flight safety procedures.

According to reports, Ethiopian Airlines’ MAX 8 was also new and had been delivered to the airline last November.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air (stock photo).

The airline world responds 

The two tragedies have raised safety concerns over one of Boeing’s best-selling, single-aisle aircrafts, which first entered service in 2017.

As of the end of January, Boeing delivered 350 MAX jets to clients out of a total order of 5,011 aircrafts.

Yesterday’s crash has generated an international response over the use of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, leading some countries and airlines to temporarily ground the aircrafts until more information is available.

In China, authorities on Monday told airlines in the country to ground all their Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts, citing the need for "strict control of safety risks," CNN reports.

Regulators in Indonesia said that planes there would need to be inspected before flights resumed.

Cayman Airways also announced Monday that it was temporarily suspending its Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft to “stand by our commitment to putting the safety of our passengers and crew first,” the company stated in a release. 

Should passengers be worried?

The varying responses issued by airlines could possibly create confusion among consumers over the safety and reliability of Boeing aircrafts.

According to reports, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, FlyDubai, Norwegian Air and SilkAir are all continuing to operate their 737 MAX aircrafts.

In Canada, Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing all fly the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

In a story published by CBC News, Air Canada said it has operated the passenger jet since 2017, when the model was introduced, and currently has 24 in its fleet.

"These aircraft have performed excellently from a safety, reliability and customer satisfaction perspective," an Air Canada spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

WestJet has 13 of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in its fleet.

In an email to PAX, Lauren Stewart, an official spokesperson at WestJet, issued the following statement:

“WestJet sends heartfelt condolences to those friends and family whose loved ones were on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. We are monitoring the situation closely and will not speculate on the cause of the incident.”

Stewart wrote that WestJet “remains confident” in the safety of its Boeing 737 fleet.

“We have flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, and the fleet currently operates around 450 safe daily B737 departures,” Stewart wrote.

Sunwing did not respond to PAX’s request for comment by press time.

Boeing stock down

Yesterday’s deadly crash in Ethiopia has impacted Boeing’s performance on the stock market, with Boeing shares down more than 12 per cent shortly after trading opened this morning.

In a statement issued yesterday, Boeing said it extended its “heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team.”

The company said a Boeing technical team is travelling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.