Muscat: Passengers flying in and out of Oman can expect cancellations and rescheduled flights after the country decided to stop all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from operating in its airspace.
The decision came after a Boeing 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines, which was flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, crashed just six minutes after take-off at 8:38 am on Sunday.
All 157 people on board, which included 149 passengers across 35 different nationalities, and eight crew, died.
In the wake of the accident, Oman and several other countries have decided to temporarily stop operations of the Boeing 737 MAX in their airspace, which could affect passengers and their flight schedules. Oman Air has also decided to cancel some of its routes between 12-19 March.
However, the routes have not yet been disclosed. An airline spokesman said, “Oman Air will cancel a number of flights between 12th and 19th March 2019, due to the grounding of our 737-Max fleet. Please note that all guests will be automatically re-accommodated on to alternative/next available flights.
“In the event that guests are not satisfied with the re-booked option, one additional free date change may be offered subject to conditions.”
The statement goes on: “Oman Air’s primary and over-riding consideration is the safety and well-being of its staff and guests.”
One senior aviation official added, “Some flights and destinations will be cancelled following the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts. This is not only going to affect Oman Air but also other airlines as well.”
Shamveel Baig, operations manager at Travel Point, said that with airlines operating fewer planes, ticket prices could increase, forcing passengers to take a decision as to whether taking a flight is worth the additional expenses incurred.
“From the information that we’ve gotten so far, in terms of increase of price, there is definitely going to be an increase because there will be a shortage of flights, so airlines would definitely put up their prices,” he said. “We are expecting some calls from customers in the future, because the schools are closing soon for the break, and so a lot of people have already purchased their tickets, and now the airlines have to come up with a new schedule. If this is going to mean cancelling existing flights, then yes, we will definitely get calls from passengers.”
Mohammad Kabir Ahmed, Managing Director of another travel agency, United Dreams LLC, said: “The fares are likely to shoot up as there are more demands and fewer flights.”
After Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait also banned the operation of all Boeing 737 MAX models in their airspaces.
In a statement to Times of Oman, a flydubai spokesperson said: “Following the directive issued by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) flydubai’s fleet of 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 2 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft have been grounded.
“flydubai is adjusting its schedule to minimise disruption to passengers and will operate flights with its fleet of Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Where there are flight cancellations flydubai will contact passengers directly,” it said.
“With effect from 13 March 00:01 UTC, the operation of Boeing 737-8 MAX and Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft is forbidden in the United Arab Emirates Airspace until further notice,” said a statement from the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority.
A statement from Kuwait’s Director General for Civil Aviation added, “The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has announced the suspension of operating Boeing 737 MAX from and to Kuwait International Airport until further notice.”
Outside the GCC, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation has also halted all flights of the same make from operating to and from Indian airports, with a ministry statement saying, “B 737 MAX operations will stop from/to all Indian airports. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has taken the decision to ground the Boeing 737 MAX planes immediately. These planes will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations.”
Tushar Srivastava, Head of Communications at Spice Jet, added that 14 of the airline’s scheduled flights had been cancelled, in the wake of this order.
He said on Wednesday, “Consequent to the regulatory directive on the Boeing 737 MAX, Spice Jet has already initiated grounding of its MAX fleet.
Spice Jet cancellations
In order to cause least inconvenience to its passengers and also bring these aircraft to its maintenance base we expect to complete this exercise on or before 4pm today. Spice Jet has presently announced cancellation of 14 flights for today and will be operating additional flights from tomorrow.”
Spice Jet operates the Boeing 737 MAX on its Muscat route. Oman, India, the UAE and Kuwait aside, a number of nations, including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK and China have all decided to suspend the Boeing 737 MAX from using their airspace. The European Union has also taken this measure.
In addition, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 26,000 flight attendants for American Airlines, called on the airline’s CEO Doug Parker to ground the Boeing 737 MAX airlines the company operated.
“Our flight attendants are very concerned with the recent Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash, which has raised safety concerns with the 737 MAX 8,” said APFA National President Lori Bassani. “Many respected global carriers are grounding the planes. We are calling on our CEO Doug Parker to strongly consider grounding these planes until a thorough investigation can be performed. While we cannot draw premature conclusions, it is critical to work with manufacturers, regulators and airlines to take steps to address our important safety concerns. The safety of our crews and passengers is paramount. Our flight attendants will not be forced to fly if they feel unsafe.”
Even US President Donald Trump weighed in on the recent groundings, saying, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain.”