KUALA LUMPUR: Boeing B737 MAX 8 will return to the skies with Malaysia Airlines as early as the second quarter (Q2) of 2023 with the national carrier taking delivery of 25 units of the aircraft from this year till 2026.
Malaysia Airlines parent Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) had in July 2016 ordered 25 units of the 737 MAX 8, which was grounded in many countries worldwide following two fatal accidents, although it largely returned to service in late 2020.
The carrier also has an option to buy another 25 of the narrow-body aircraft.
An MAG spokesperson confirmed that the group was expected to take delivery of the 25 new 737 MAX 8 aircraft from Q2 this year.
The spokesperson also told the New Straits Times that the group was currently reviewing its fleet requirement for any additional B737 MAX 8 based on forecasted changes in market demand and in line with market developments.
"We're targeting to make a decision on this before the end of 2023," the spokesperson added.
A source said the narrow-body aircraft would also be used by another MAG subsidiary Firefly since the latter had started jet operations out of Skypark Terminal in Subang.
MAG group chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail told a news outlet in November 2022 that the group was considering ordering 25 narrow-body jets on top of the existing firm order of 25 Boeing single-aisle aircraft.
The B737 MAX 8 was one of the best-selling passenger aircraft until it was grounded worldwide in 2019 following two major crashes involving Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines in October 2018 and March 2019 respectively.
The two crashes had claimed 346 lives in the span of five months.
In 2019, former US president Donald Trump announced that both the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 were grounded, making it the only aircraft type in history to be grounded by a US president.
China was the first country to completely stop flying the B737 MAX 8 in March 2019 followed by Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, France, Italy and Netherlands.
However, last week China Southern Airlines became the first Chinese carrier to start operating two B737 MAX 8.
Aviation consultancy Endau Analytics founder and analyst Shukor Yusof said the aviation industry had more or less moved on as far as the 737 MAX 8 was concerned.
"This aircraft type is among the safest (aircraft) in operation today as a result of those tragic incidents and has generally been well received since it was allowed to fly again as reflected in its strong asset value by lessors and aircraft financiers," he said.
Shukor also said that Malaysia Airlines' plans to operate the B737 MAX 8 would help its turnaround plan due to the aircraft's better economics and residual values.
"Passengers are likely to choose Malaysia Airlines not from the aircraft type it flies, rather its service, products and competitive airfares," he added.
Meanwhile, the MAG spokesperson said the B737 MAX 8 had been extensively reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the US' Department of Transportation, the European Safety Agency and various independent national aviation authorities including the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia.
"Malaysia Airlines has reviewed the modifications and training mandated by the authorities and will ensure that these requirements are embodied for all aircraft delivered and personnel trained," the spokesperson said.