Ethiopian Airlines Group plans to resume flights on Boeing Co. 737 Max jets in July after analyzing changes to the model that crashed in the country almost two years ago, killing all 157 people on board.
Africa’s largest airline will retain orders for new Max planes and expects to reach an “amicable settlement” with Boeing this month regarding the accident, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam said at a CAPA conference on Wednesday. It would have been economically unfeasible to switch aircraft types given it already operates an older 737 variant, the CEO said.
“We have made a thorough analysis – technically, operationally, commercially – and we decided to continue with the airplane,” Tewolde said. “We have been following up with our experts, technicians and pilots, and they seem to be satisfied that the modifications will fully address the flight-control system that was creating problems.”
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed outside Addis Ababa less than five months after a similar incident in Indonesia, and the Max single-aisle workhorse is only now winning approvals to return to the skies after almost two years of regulatory scrutiny. Some carriers in the U.S. and South America have already resumed flights, while Europe’s aviation-safety regulator cleared the Max to return to service last month.
Ethiopian Airlines is cash positive even after the Covid-19 pandemic destroyed air travel, Tewolde said. The carrier was quick to respond to a jump in cargo demand, taking out seats in commercial aircraft to haul freight, he said.
Tewolde has repeatedly said Ethiopian would be the last airline to resume flying the Max, though on Wednesday he downgraded the statement to say it wouldn’t be among the first.