13 Mar 2019

Fiji Airways suspends use of Max 8 aircraft

1:47 pm on 13 March 2019

Fiji Airways and local aviation authorities have grounded the national airline's two Boeing Max 8 aircraft.

The MAX 8 series has only been operating commercially for less than a year.

The MAX 8 series has only been operating commercially for less than a year. Photo: Boeing

Fiji Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji said they'd made the decision out of deference to other regulators in the region and in response to public concern.

Fiji is the latest country on a long list to suspend the Max 8 aircraft plane following the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday which killed 157 people on board.

The same type of plane also crashed and killed 189 people in Indonesia in October.

Fiji Airways said its existing fleet of Boeings and Airbus planes will replace the Max 8 flights.

The fleet includes the 737-800 and 700 and Airbus' A330-200s.

The airline said some flight times will be affected by the change.

Fiji Airways said they still had confidence in the jet's airworthiness and the aircraft have proved to be reliable and efficient so far.

"We would like to stress that Fiji Airways, together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji, continue to have full confidence in the airworthiness of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and in the skilled and experienced Fiji Airways pilots and engineers who operate them.

"Since Fiji Airways commenced operating the Boeing 737 Max in December 2018, the aircraft has proven to be reliable and efficient, and continuous flight data monitoring has not identified any issues that would give rise to a cause for concern."

The airline said out of deference to the position taken by regulators in the region and the concerns of the public they had decided, along with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji, to the temporary grounding of the aircraft.

"We will continue to monitor developments closely, and this decision will be reviewed in light of any new information."

Earlier, Fiji's opposition transport spokesperson Bill Gavoka 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.

He also said the airline's continued use of Max 8s could be a liability to the country's tourism market.

"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."

New Zealand suspended Max 8s today following Australia's decision last night.

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