The Boeing 737 MAX is coming back after 20 months grounded worldwide due to accidents at Ethiopian and Lion Air. So far, only two countries have recertified the MAX: the US and Brazil.
In Latin America, four carriers have MAX fleets. GOL Linhas Aereas in Brazil has seven Boeing 737 MAX8; in Mexico, Aeromexico has six; in Panama, Copa Airlines has six; and in Argentina, Aerolíneas Argentinas has five.
So far, GOL has provided the most certainty about its MAX plans going forward. For instance, since Brazil has recertified the aircraft, GOL plans to operate its seven aircraft in commercial flights starting tomorrow, December 9. Before reintegrating the MAX-8 into the fleet, GOL conducted training for 140 of its pilots in conjunction with Boeing. The practices took place in the United States, using a MAX simulator.
Paulo Kakinoff, GOL’s CEO, said,
“We are pleased about the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to our network. The MAX is one of the most efficient aircraft in aviation history and the only one to undergo a complete recertification process, ensuring the highest levels of safety and reliability.”
Additionally to the seven aircraft already in the fleet, GOL has a standing order for 95 more units. Initially, it was an order for 125 planes, but the Brazilian carrier reduced it to adapt better to the current pandemic. According to GOL, these 95 MAX are scheduled for delivery between 2022 and 2032; some of the aircraft that have already been built may fly to Brazil in the next few days.
Aeromexico has a fleet of six Boeing 737 MAX8s. So far, the Mexican aviation regulatory body (AFAC) hasn’t recertified the type. It may take a while because the general director of AFAC recently resigned, leaving the newly created organization.
This uncertainty can be seen at Aeromexico. We’ve asked the Mexican airline if it has a status regarding its MAX fleet but to no avail. Aeromexico expects to have a more precise panorama this week.
Additionally, as Aeromexico is currently under Chapter 11 reorganization, it is analyzing every aspect of the business, including its standing order for up to 84 additional Boeing 737 MAX.
Aeromexico has already shrunken its fleet’s size, rejecting several leasing contracts of Embraer E170 and Boeing 737-700 aircraft. It also switched the leasing contracts of its aircraft to PBH agreements. It is fair to expect a reduction in the MAX order.
Copa Airlines has a fleet of six Boeing 737 MAX9. As Aeromexico, Copa doesn’t know when it will operate these planes again. Panama’s civil aviation authority hasn’t announced the recertification of the type, even when it said, a few months ago, that it would follow the FAA’s lead.
Copa has a standing order for 55 Boeing 737 MAX8 and MAX9 airplanes. The Panamanian airline said a few things about the MAX on its third-quarter results. It stated,
- “The Company has a plan in place to comply with all new requirements and expects to return its six Boeing 737 MAX-9 aircraft to service soon.”
- “The Company is in advance discussions with Boeing to reach a settlement regarding the Boeing 737 MAX grounding. Subject to the outcome of these discussions, the Company expects to receive two Boeing 737 MAX-9 aircraft during the month of December 2020.”
Last, we come to Argentina. Aerolineas Argentinas has a fleet of five MAX and an order of 12 remaining aircraft, including nine directly from Boeing and three through lessors.
There is no information regarding the Argentinian Government reauthorizing the MAX operations in the country. The last we heard about Aerolineas’ MAX fleet was in February when the airline announced it was expecting compensation from Boeing for the grounding, possibly in the form of discounts on the remaining orders.