13 Mar 2019

Fiji opposition urges national airline to ground Max 8s

12:20 pm on 13 March 2019

Fiji's being warned its mainstay tourism industry is under threat if Fiji Airways' Boeing Max 8 planes aren't grounded.

A Boeing Max 8 plane.

A Boeing Max 8 plane. Photo: AFP or licensors

Dozens of airlines around the world have grounded this model of airplane following an Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed all 157 people on board.

Coming just five months after the same model plane crashed in Indonesia, killing 189, the Ethiopian crash has sent shockwaves through the aviation industry.

National airlines in countries including China, Indonesia and South Africa have grounded their Max 8s - but not Fiji Airways which said it had full confidence in the airworthiness of its fleet.

While the planes have been stopped from flying into Australia, Fiji Airways is still flying the aircraft into New Zealand.

Fiji's opposition transport spokesperson Bill Gavoka said New Zealand is Fiji's second biggest tourism market and the Fiji government needs to act quickly.

"We should be proactive. We should show our people in the overseas market that the duty of care is here. We will soon be in the high tourism season. Winter is just around the corner and we don't want to jeopardise that by not acting decisively."

Mr Gavoka said that with Fiji's tourism brand symbiotic with that of Fiji Airways, the decision to keep flying the Max 8 could be seen by source markets as reckless.

He said it was critical for Fiji Airways to be prudent like other national airlines which have grounded their Max 8 aircraft, given that aviation experts and investigators have stated that the cause of the crash is still unknown after the recovery of the black box of the Ethiopian Airlines plane.

Warning of more devastation to Fiji's tourism industry, he said Fiji Airways risked "massive liability" in the event of fatalities caused by the decisions to keep operating the two Max 8s.

The opposition MP also urged the airline to review its decision to acquire three more Max 8 aircraft, and said that there was also a lot of anxiety in Fiji about travelling on Max 8s.

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