Boeing Max 8 ban upsets travel plans for many

March 16, 2019

Irfan Mohammed

Saudi Gazette

Travel plans of many of passengers in the Kingdom were affected on account of a ban on Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft by several countries after the fatal crash in Ethiopia last week that killed all 157 people on board.

The national flag carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines or any the major foreign airlines such as Air India, Pakistan International Airlines, Biman, Egypt Air, Philippine Air that operate to the Kingdom do not have this type of aircraft in their fleets. However, some budget carriers in neighboring Gulf countries do operate them.

Flydubai, which operates to 10 destinations in the Kingdom, is the most affected airline by the ban since it has grounded all Max 8 aircraft in its fleet.

However, only two major destinations – Riyadh and Dammam – were hit with the cancellation of flights. Many expatriates in these two cities travel home via Dubai.

“Following the safety notice issued by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GCAA) flydubai’s fleet of 13 Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft has been grounded as a precautionary safety measure. Flydubai is working on all operational aspects that this decision will entail,» an airline spokesperson has said.

She added that following the ban some cancellations in Dammam and Riyadh, along with other destinations, had taken place but they were able to restore normalcy.

Oman Air, which operates to four major cities in the Kingdom, also have Boeing 737 Max 8 on its fleet, and the decision impacted its passengers temporarily.

Indian budget carrier SpiceJet was set to launch its maiden flights from Jeddah to two lucrative destinations in India with that specific model of aircraft. The low airfare is a major theme of the airline when it announced the launch of services to the Kingdom targeting low-paid Indian expatriates and families that travel home to spend school holidays.

Amid a shortage of aircraft in its base, it was not clear how the ban would impact the airline›s fares during the upcoming holiday season.

SpiceJet had scheduled daily non-stop flights between Jeddah and Hyderabad from March 25. It was set to use 189-seater Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to transport 2,500 passengers per week.

The passengers had high hopes on its daily service between Jeddah and Kozhikode, which was scheduled to start on April 20.

An executive at SpiceJet assured that the airline would launch flights to Saudi Arabia as scheduled but with alternative aircraft.

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