The UK’s largest tour operator has confirmed it will introduce the controversial Boeing 737-MAX jet to holiday routes this summer.
TUI’s fleet of the aircraft will fly to mid- and short-haul destinations from London Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol.
The 737-MAX suffered a technical failure causing two fatal accidents when Indonesian airline Lion Air and an Ethiopian Airlines flight both crashed killing 346 people.
It was subsequently grounded worldwide from March 2019 to November 2020, with production only resuming in May 2020 and the aircraft getting clearance to fly again last November.
TUI has 15 MAX aircraft in its fleet flown by around 300 specially-trained pilots. Each aircraft uses 14 per cent less fuel and produces less noise pollution with better facilities with crew and passengers.
The airline’s website sought to reassure passengers, saying it is constantly reviewing its holiday programme in line with the latest Government advice and will be planning and updating aviation schedules every two-three weeks.
It adds: “You will be able to see the type of aircraft you’re scheduled to fly on in Manage My Booking around two weeks before you travel. However, it’s important to remember that your aircraft type could change at the last minute, due to scheduling amendments and operational requirements.
“All aircraft in storage are maintained in accordance with the highest standards, and our engineering and maintenance teams have spent a lot of time thoroughly checking over them and keeping them in perfect shape. Each MAX aircraft will also undertake at least one operational readiness flight before returning to commercial service.”
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TUI pledged that any passenger not happy about flying on the 737-MAX would be given the option to change bookings.
It said: “We’d like to reassure you that if you don’t want to fly on the MAX when your holiday approaches, you won’t have to. Closer to your departure date, you’ll be able to see the aircraft type you’re scheduled to fly on, and you can speak to a travel advisor to discuss your options.
“We’d never fly an aircraft if we weren’t totally sure it was safe. Our teams have spent a lot of time with our fleet of MAX aircraft working to bring them back safely, and making sure we’ve gone above and beyond the regulatory requirements.
“We’ve also worked closely with the regulators and Boeing throughout the entire process.”
This has included:
- Undertaking thorough review of our aircraft
- Implementing all of the regulator’s technical and physical improvements
- Providing pilots with enhanced training, including time in the MAX simulator
- Conducting operational readiness flights for every MAX aircraft