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

Feb. 17, 2021
3 min read
TUI operates first commercial 737 MAX flight in Europe since 2019 grounding
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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.

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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 image by BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 18: 4 Boeing 737 MAX from TUI fly Belgium are docked in Brussels on December 18, 2019. On December 16, 2019, Boeing announced: 'Safely returning the 737 MAX to service is our top priority. We know that the process of approving the 737 MAX's return to service, and of determining appropriate training requirements, must be extraordinarily thorough and robust, to ensure that our regulators, customers, and the flying public have confidence in the 737 MAX updates. As we have previously said, the FAA and global regulatory authorities determine the timeline for certification and return to service. We remain fully committed to supporting this process. It is our duty to ensure that every requirement is fulfilled, and every question from our regulators answered. Throughout the grounding of the 737 MAX, Boeing has continued to build new airplanes and there are now approximately 400 airplanes in storage. We have previously stated that we would continually evaluate our production plans should the MAX grounding continue longer than we expected. As a result of this ongoing evaluation, we have decided to prioritize the delivery of stored aircraft and temporarily suspend production on the 737 program beginning next month.' Created in 2004 under the name of TUI Airlines Belgium, it took over, after the bankruptcy of Sobelair, which until then had been the main airline of the tour operator Jetair, to transport Belgian tourists to their destination. On October 19, 2016, Jetairfly and the other companies in the TUI group were renamed TUI Airlines to bring together the different brands of the group under the same name. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees