Flyadeal today shied away from acknowledging that two deadly crashes and a subsequent worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max fleet were the reasons behind its cancellation of an order for 30 of the Max 8, in the wake of an increased order for Airbus A320neos by the LCC’s parent, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA), at the Paris Airshow June 18.
Flyadeal on July 7 announced “significant growth to its fleet, with an order for 30 A320neo aircraft, and options for a further 20. This order will result in [our] operating an all-Airbus A320 fleet in the future. Deliveries of the Flyadeal aircraft will commence in 2021.” The press release did not refer to Boeing.
“[We have] nothing to add to our press release on [the] fleet,” CEO Con Korfiatis told AIN on July 9.
In November, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea off Indonesia, while in March, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed six minutes after takeoff from Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. The two crashes resulted in 346 fatalities. The entire global 737 Max fleet was grounded three days later, when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration became the last national agency to approve suspension of flights, due to concerns over the design of the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
Earlier this year, Flyadeal threatened to cancel an order for the 30 Boeing 737 Max 8s if clarity were not forthcoming on the status of the order with Boeing, when the groundings would end, and how updated software changes would restore the aircraft to airworthiness. On April 30, Korfiatis told AIN that a decision on whether to proceed with the Boeing order was “imminent.”
Flyadeal’s parent was quick to come to its aid in the midst of the uncertainty. SAA announced June 18 at the Paris Airshow that it had “reached an agreement to expand its existing purchase of A320 aircraft from 35 to 100 aircraft comprising a firm order of 65 [of the] A320neo family, plus options for a further 35.”
Boeing has almost 400 Max aircraft scheduled for delivery in the Middle East. “Boeing is proud of its seven-decade-long partnership with Saudi Arabia’s aviation industry and we wish the Flyadeal team well as it builds out its operations,” a Dubai-based Boeing spokesperson told AIN. “Our team continues to focus on safely returning the 737 Max to service and resuming deliveries of Max airplanes.”
Another major Middle East LCC hit by the grounding of the 737 Max, Flydubai, said in late April it might consider Airbus orders in future, even though it has operated a Boeing-only narrowbody fleet to date.
The FAA said June 26 it was “following a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the Boeing 737 Max to passenger service.” On July 3, Boeing pledged $100 million in funds to address the family and community needs of those affected by the “tragic accidents” involving the two aircraft. Also June 26, the OEM conceded that the FAA had “identified an additional requirement during simulator sessions reviewing specific flight conditions and scenarios” that it would have to address.