Booking with British Airways could mean flying on Boeing 737 Max

The Boeing 737 Max is likely to go back into service in the US before the rest of the world – which could mean British Airways’ flight code is applied to a type of plane that UK safety regulators have grounded.

The newest variant of a long-established aircraft was grounded after two crashes in five months, which cost the lives of 346 passengers and crew.

In October 2018, a Lion Air plane plunged into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta airport in Indonesia. This month, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crashed soon after departing Addis Ababa.

In both fatal accidents, new anti-stall software has been implicated. If the angle between the wing and the airflow is deemed too steep, the “MCAS” system automatically tilts the nose of the aircraft down without intervention from the pilots.

The planemaker is working on new software and additional training before passenger flights are permitted again.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to approve the changes and allow flights to re-commence domestically within weeks.

But the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other regulators have lost confidence in the FAA over the issue and will insist on conducting their own tests before the Boeing 737 Max is allowed to operate in their airspace.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) grounded the plane on 12 March, ahead of the FAA, citing “insufficient information from the flight data recorder” involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

British Airways has no Boeing 737 Max jets in its fleet, nor any on order. But it is in a joint venture with American Airlines (AA), which has 24 of the planes.

BA sells many tickets on a “codeshare” basis – applying BA codes to AA flights.

For example, the first leg of a trip booked through BA from Denver via Miami to Heathrow on 1 July involves “BA2399” which is actually AA flight 2793.

Before the grounding this segment was operated with a 737 Max. At present no aircraft type is shown for the departure on American Airlines’ schedules.

The US carrier has amended its flying programme to assume the 737 will stay on the ground until at least 24 April. 

AA has flown more than 2.5 million passengers on nearly 18,000 flights on its Boeing 737 Max fleet since the first one was delivered in September 2017. It says: “Once the FAA lifts the order, we will work as quickly as we can to get all aircraft back into our fleet, but the timing is unknown at this point.”

BA is not commenting on the Boeing 737 Max while the aircraft remains grounded. 

The airline promotes the codeshare with AA by offering “mixing and matching flights to suit your schedule” and “smoother connections for onward flights”. 

Aircraft types on any route can be changed at short notice.



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