Air Canada scrubs 737 Max jets from schedule through July as cost concerns rise

MONTREAL — Air Canada says it is removing its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets from service until at least Aug. 1 in order to provide more certainty for passengers with summer travel plans.

Canada's largest airline, which had previously scrubbed the planes from schedules until July 1, says it has taken several steps to adjust since Transport Canada banned the 737 Max from Canadian airspace as part of an international response to the fatal March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane.

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Chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette says the company has "protected 96 per cent of planned flying" through measures that include consolidating flights on larger planes and extending leases on aircraft planned to exit the fleet.

Air Canada — where 24 Max 8s make up about 10 per cent of its main 243-plane fleet — suspended its high-flying 2019 financial guidance last month due to ongoing uncertainty as to when the aircraft will return to service following software updates and pilot training. Older replacement aircraft such as the Airbus A320 are not as fuel efficient and others can only avoid maintenance for so long before heading back to the hangar, further reducing capacity.

WestJet Airlines Inc. has removed its 13 Max 8s from service until at least July 1, with no plans to cancel orders for 37 more Max jetliners.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau closed Canadian skies to the Max 8 on March 13 over safety concerns arising from the flight path of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that bore startling parallels to a fatal Lion Air crash off the coast of Indonesia on Oct. 29, killing a combined 346 people.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC, TSX:WJA)

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