Editor’s comment: Global grounding

Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

It’s been a devastating week for Africa and the world’s aviation industry, following the tragic accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 on Sunday 10 March.

Having taken off from Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport just six minutes earlier, flight ET 302 which was bound for Nairobi, crashed just outside the Ethiopian capital in Bishoftu, killing all 157 people onboard.

It’s the second deadly incident involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in less than five months – in October a Lion Air jet crashed in Indonesia soon after taking off from Jakarta.

After nearly every country in the world resolved that Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft should be grounded, Boeing finally determined on Wednesday afternoon that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should temporarily suspend operations of the entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft.

“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing.

“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry.”

Earlier in the week, the FAA had stated that it had confidence in the Boeing 737 Max 8, saying it was still “airworthy.” But, speaking at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, president Trump announced that in light of new information, the US would be issuing an “emergency order to ground all 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9, and planes associated with that line.”

He added that any aircraft in the air would continue to their destination where they will be grounded.

While the effects of grounding the aircraft, which is generally used for short-haul and domestic flights, have yet to play out and some airlines may be able to accommodate passengers on different aircraft, the measure will have an impact on airlines, airports and passengers around the world.

The cause of Sunday’s accident remains under investigation, but the effects will be long-lasting.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Regional Gateway e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

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