Flydubai Considers A320neo as 737 MAX Grounding Continues

A Flydubai 737 MAX 8 performs a test flight at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

In the Boeing 737 MAX saga, perhaps the most frightful scenario for the builder is not related to the present or a meticulous review of the past. While the investigation on the certification process advances, the consequences are starting to cast clouds on the future of the aircraft.

Flydubai, the second largest customer of the variant, has confirmed that it has started talks with Airbus for an order of A320neo narrow-body aircraft reports The National. The reason cited by the company is simple: “We can’t just sit around and wait to see what happens,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Flydubai’s chairman, at the Arabian Travel Market fair on April 29.  “I talked to Airbus to see what exactly will happen because, as you understand,  we don’t have a definite date when this aircraft will be flying again,” he added.

Maktoum stated that the grounding of the 14 MAX Flydubai was already coming with a high cost for the company. “We had a severe disturbance and a shrinkage of routes. I didn’t ground those aircraft because I wanted to. Even if I wanted to continue operating them, I won’t be able to because no airspace will allow them. We will seek compensation and act within the terms of the contract we have signed, but we keep our option to look for alternatives open,” he concluded.

Flydubai has not disclosed the amount of compensation that would settle the bill for the disruption caused by the grounding, nor the decision date for a firm replacement order, but if the grounding extends throughout the next months, the decision would come sooner than later.

Besides that, Maktoum complained about the communication flow Boeing is maintaining with Flydubai as a concerned customer: “There are questions that were not answered yet. We don’t know the necessary details about pilot training, the measures introduced to fix the jets and the system programming changes. I don’t want the delay to continue, as it is impacting our growth. We will need a clear date of return to service and proper compensation.”

A Flydubai 737 MAX 8 performing a test flight at Paine Field. The airline currently has 14 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

The carrier is the regional and domestic partner of long-haul Emirates and has an all-Boeing 737 fleet, comprising 50 737-800 and 14 MAX 8 aircraft, with a pending order of 236 additional 737 MAX 8, MAX 9 and MAX 10. In a statement, Boeing has manifested its concern for the company’s decision: “Flydubai has been and continues to be a valued customer, and we are sorry for the disruption this situation has caused them. We are focused on earning their trust and supporting all of our customers around the world in every way possible to ensure complete confidence in the 737 Max and a safe return to commercial flight.”

To this date, Flydubai is not the only MAX customer in the region having second thoughts about the airplane. Flyadeal, Saudia’s low-cost division, has said that will reach a decision about the 30 MAX 8 ordered -and its 20 options “within weeks.” Outside the Persian Gulf, the situation seems to be disputed between carriers that manifested a strong defense of the variant and those that are hesitating to go forward with their orders. In any case, the following months will face an enormous challenge to Boeing’s best-seller: regain confidence and maintain the majority of its 5,000 orders alive.

This story was updated on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 7:20 p.m. ET to properly attribute the original source. 

Pablo Diaz

Since a little kid, Pablo set his passions in order: aviation, soccer, and everything else. He has traveled to various destinations throughout South America, Asia, and Europe.

Technology and systems expert, occasional spotter, not-so-dynamic midfielder, blogger, husband, father of three cats; he believes that Latin America's aviation industry past, present, and future offer a lot of stories to be told.
Pablo Diaz