Boeing 737 MAX officially returns within China with China Southern flight

China Southern Airlines became the first airline in China to operate the Boeing 737 MAX since its grounding in March 2019
Suparat Chairatprasert /

China Southern Airlines has become the first airline to operate a commercial Boeing 737 MAX flight in China, as the type was finally ungrounded after almost three years. 

The airline operated Flight CZ3960 from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) to Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport (CGO) on January 13, 2023. The Boeing 737 MAX departed the origin airport at 12:45 PM local time (UTC +8), arriving at CGO a few hours later before flying back to CAN. The aircraft, registered as B-1206, landed at CAN at 6:02 PM local time (UTC +8). 

Another China Southern Airlines 737 MAX, registered as B-1127, flew a round trip between CAN and Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) on January 13, 2022, departing for WUH at 2:26 PM local time (UTC +8). 

Speculation about the return of the Boeing 737 MAX in China began on January 11, 2022, when the airline’s mobile application showed flights scheduled to be operated with the type. However, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) had not officially announced that it was ungrounding the aircraft. In March 2019 the Chinese regulator became the first to ground the 737 MAX, following the second fatal crash of the narrow-body jet within six months. In total, the accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia claimed the lives of 346 people. 

Russia has remained the only authority that has still grounded the aircraft, at least partially. The so-called ‘friendly countries’ airlines have been allowed to fly the Boeing 737 MAX within the country since July 2022. Belavia, the flag carrier of Belarus, became the first airline to fly the type into Russia’s airspace. The only airline that had the infamous jet in its fleet was S7 Airlines, which had a pair of 737 MAXs. One was retired in March 2019, while the other has been returned to its lessor, namely Air Lease Corporation (ALC), on October 12, 2022. It has been in storage at Istanbul Ataturk Airport (ISL) since then, according to data. 

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