China Southern flags 737 MAX flights in possible return of model

China Southern Airlines has scheduled two Boeing 737 MAX flights for Friday, its mobile app showed, which if completed would be the first commercial services for the model by a Chinese airline since a March 2019 grounding.

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The scheduled flights are domestic journeys from the southern city of Guangzhou to Zhengzhou and from Guangzhou to Wuhan, the app showed.

China Southern had also initially scheduled a return to commercial service for the 737 MAX in October 2022 but did not use it on the planned flights.

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Boeing said it would defer to airlines to comment on flight operations, while China Southern did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The 737 MAX was grounded in March 2019 following fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia but has returned to service around the world with the exception of China and Russia after modifications to the aircraft and pilot training.

Foreign airlines began flying the 737 MAX to China in October 2022.

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Chinese airlines had 97 of the planes before the grounding, according to Cirium data in 2019.

Boeing in October said it had another 138 planes manufactured for Chinese carriers that were in the United States waiting to be delivered, though it had begun remarketing the jets to other carriers given there were no concrete signs that Chinese airlines would accept the planes in the near term.

China's domestic aviation market, which was depressed in 2022 because of sporadic lockdowns designed to quash COVID-19 outbreaks, has begun to rebound strongly after the country recently ended its zero-COVID policy.

China expects the total number of passenger trips made by travellers by road, rail, water and flight during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays to reach 2.1 billion this year, double last year's 1.05 billion during the same period.

Source: Reuters

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