TUI operates first commercial 737 MAX flight in Europe since 2019 grounding

Feb 17, 2021

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The first 737 MAX to return to commercial service in Europe since the beleaguered aircraft’s worldwide grounding in 2019 has done so on Wednesday.

TUI fly Belgium Flight 1011 took off from Brussels (BRU) at 9:43 a.m. for Malaga (AGP) on Wednesday morning, operated by one of the carrier’s Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

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The aircraft operating the flight, aptly registered as OO-MAX, is a 3-year-old 737 MAX 8, having been delivered to TUI fly Belgium in January 2018. The aircraft had been stored at the airline’s home airport of Brussels (BRU) since March 15, 2019, according to data from Planespotters.net.

(Image courtesy of FlightRadar24)

Last week, TPG reported that low-cost Czech carrier Smartwings would be the first to resume 737 MAX commercial service in Europe. With a planned service on Feb. 25, from Prague (PRG) to Palma de Mallorca (PMI), QS1164 was set to be the first commercial return before TUI made an adjustment to its schedule.

The 737 MAX was grounded around the world in 2019 following two fatal crashes in late 2018 and early 2019. Investigators linked the incidents to the 737 MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), Boeing’s new anti-stall system that reportedly malfunctioned and forced down the noses of the doomed planes.

TUI fly Belgium launched Wednesday’s flight with little fanfare about the return of its 737 MAX. In addition to OO-MAX, which operated Wednesday’s flight, the airline has three additional 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet.

TUI fly Belgium is a subsidiary of the larger TUI Group and part of TUI Airlines. However, it’s based in Belgium and mainly flies to short-haul leisure destinations in Europe, though it also has two 787 Dreamliners in its fleet.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted its grounding of the 737 MAX in November 2020, and American Airlines first offered media a seat on board one of its MAX aircraft in December 2020. Since the lifting, several airlines in the U.S. have resumed service.

In January 2021, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recertified the MAX to return to service in European skies.

Elsewhere in the U.K., TUI Airways and Ryanair are expected to enter their 737 MAX into service at some point this year. Amidst the international grounding of the aircraft, Ryanair boosted its order for the “gamechanger” aircraft by adding 75 more orders on top of its existing 135 on the books. It’s yet to take delivery of its first MAX.

Related: Boeing 737 MAX flies in UK airspace for first time in more than a year

Featured photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images.

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