WestJet reveals 737 MAX return plan

Following the resumption of commercial operations in both Brazil and the US, the airline outlines its intentions for getting the embattled jet back in the sky

Canadian carrier WestJet has unveiled its strategy to return its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to passenger service. 

The airline’s plans follow an announcement from Transport Canada (TC) on December 17 in which safety experts validated the aircraft design and outlined requirements for Canadian carriers.  

WestJet MAX
WestJet has an order for 55 Boeing 737 MAXs which it placed in 2013. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO revealed that the operator’s first MAX will be ready to return to service from January 21, the earliest date that all the mandated work can be completed. 

“While we don't have final confirmation on when TC will open Canadian airspace to the 737 MAX aircraft, in the interest of transparency we are sharing our intent to fly once this confirmation is received,” he added.

WestJet 737 MAX
The Canadian carrier accepted its first example on September 28, 2017. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

The Calgary-based firm expects to take a phased approach to re-entry for its MAX aircraft beginning with non-commercial test flights that are anticipated to start in mid-January. On January 21, pending TC’s reopening of airspace to commercial flights for the type, the airline intends to operate three roundtrip flights, per week, between Calgary and Toronto.  

The schedule will remain in place for four weeks, while evaluating further routes and additional frequencies. WestJet currently operates six daily flights between the two cities. 

WestJet 737 MAX
The majority of its existing fleet has been parked at Marana Pinal Airpark in Arizona. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Sims says the airline will be “forthcoming” with its passengers on where the MAX aircraft are flying and will be flexible with its change and cancel policy to “ensure our guests can make their travel plans confidently”. 

WestJet currently holds a fleet of 13 MAXs and expects to take delivery of a further 42 examples to bring its fleet of the next-generation type to 55.