Ethiopia to resume flights of deadly Boeing 737 MAX

32 Kenyans were among the plane that crashed in 2019.

(Photo by Mas Agung Wilis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Two-and-a-half years after the deadly Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash, Ethiopian Airline has reached a settlement with Boeing and said it expects to resume flying the jet again by January.

In an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday, September 2, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said he was convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that the MAX as upgraded by Boeing after the two fatal crashes is now safe.

“We are happy on the settlement,” GebreMariam said.

“I can confirm that we are committed to the Boeing 737 MAX,” he said. “My estimate is by the end of the calendar year or beginning of next year, January, we will be flying the airplane.”

The Ethiopian government’s aviation authority has not yet lifted the grounding of the MAX imposed a day after Flight ET 302 crashed in March 2019 and took 157 lives.

Yet clearly the government-owned airline fully expects the regulators to approve the jet’s return to service by the end of the year. The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

It was reported in January that Boeing had offered an amount on the order of $500 million to $600 million, a large portion of which was not cash but concessions, including discounts on future airplane sales and waivers on maintenance costs.

A Chicago law firm advising the airline wrote a letter to CEO Tewolde then urging him to reject a settlement and instead to sue the manufacturer for punitive damages in the U.S., hoping to win “not less than $1.8 billion in cash.” That advice wasn’t taken.

How this decision affects Kenya

Earlier this year, Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority authorized the Boeing 737 MAX to once again fly in Kenyan skies after being grounded for nearly two years.

While none of Kenya’s carriers operate the MAX, this decision paves the way for carriers like Ethiopian Airlines to fly the jet into the country.

This decision does not impact any of Kenya’s carriers as none of them operate the 737 MAX.

The largest of these carriers, Kenya Airways, does operate the Boeing 737, but these aircraft are older variants. According to Planespotters.net, the airline has two 737-700s, eight -800s, and two -300 freighters.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways subsidiary, Jambojet operates an all-Dash 8-400 fleet of just six aircraft. Most other operators in Kenya fly smaller aircraft, also suited for regional operations.

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