WestJet Airlines plans to return the Boeing 737 Max to service later this month, nearly two years after the aircraft was grounded around the world.
The Calgary-based airline, which has 13 Boeing 737 Max 8s in its fleet, said Wednesday that it is working with Transport Canada to ensure the aircraft will be ready to return to service on Jan 21.
"We are dedicated to restoring guest confidence in this aircraft through our safe operation, while providing the transparency and the flexibility that some of our guests may still require," WestJet chief executive Ed Sims said in a statement.
"We will be forthcoming with our guests on where the MAX aircraft are flying, and we will be flexible with our change and cancel policy to ensure our guests can make their travel plans confidently."
Last month, Transport Canada completed its independent review and “validated” the design changes made to the Boeing 737 Max. The government said that it expects to issue a Canadian Airworthiness Directive this month that will outline design changes that will need to be incorporated in the aircraft in Canada. Transport Canada’s review came shortly after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration gave the green light allowing the aircraft to return to service.
The Boeing Max 8 was grounded in March 2019, days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157. It was the longest grounding in commercial aviation history.
Air Canada has 24 Max 8s in its fleet, but has not unveiled a plan for a return to service.
While Transport Canada has not given final confirmation that it will open Canadian airspace to the Boeing aircraft, Sims said that WestJet wanted to share its intent to fly “in the interest of transparency.”
WestJet said it will take “a phased approach” for the return to service plan, starting with non-commercial test flights in mid-January. To start, the airline plans on operating three roundtrip flights per week with the Max between Calgary and Toronto. The company will re-valuate further routes and schedules after four weeks.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.