The China Southern Airlines mobile application showcased several flights operated with the Boeing 737 MAX, indicating a potential ungrounding of the type in China.
Flights are scheduled between Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) and Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport (CGO) alongside an additional itinerary between CAN and Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) on January 13, 2022. This would mark the first commercial flight of the Boeing 737 MAX in China since the type was grounded in March 2019 following the second fatal crash of the aircraft in Ethiopia.
While global regulators have ungrounded the 737 MAX since late 2020 and early 2021, China remained an outlier regarding the type’s return to service. Boeing’s latest narrow-body was allowed to enter Chinese airspace only in October 2022, when foreign airlines began flying to the country’s airports with their 737 MAXs. The first airline to do so was MIAT Mongolian Airlines, whose Boeing 737 MAX landed at CAN on October 10, 2022.
During the same month China Southern Airlines also scheduled commercial flights with the narrow-body jet. However, these flights never materialized.
In September 2022, China’s aviation regulator Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) met with Boeing to evaluate the 737 MAX’s return to service in the country. The CAAC’s announcement at the time read that “after the problems that were identified in the meeting are resolved” the release of the second revision of the Aircraft Evaluation Report on Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will indicate that “the process for re-introducing 737 MAX planes is nearing conclusion”.
Prior to the groundings, Chinese operators had 97 aircraft of the type in their fleets. A further 137 examples are awaiting delivery, according to planespotters.net data. When United Airlines and Boeing jointly announced an order for 200 aircraft (100 737 MAX and 100 787s), David Calhoun, the chief executive of the manufacturer, said that “for geopolitical reasons, I am guessing, we have been unable to make the deliveries that we would like to make to our Chinese customers”.
“We still have airplanes on the tarmac that they [Chinese airlines – ed. note] can take,” Calhoun added. Air India was reported to be eyeing the white tail aircraft to expand and renew its fleet. The Indian carrier was looking to order up to 190 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, with some of those jets, previously scheduled for delivery to China-based airlines, to be delivered immediately.