Air Canada cancels trans-Atlantic 737 Max 8 flights after UK type ban

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 departs Vancouver March 4, 2019 (photo: Brett Ballah)

Air Canada has cancelled some flights from Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Newfoundland to London-Heathrow after British authorities grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft and banned the type from its airspace.

The move came after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines crash Sunday that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians. It was the second Max 8 crash in less than five months.

European authorities quickly followed suit.

“As a precautionary measure, [the European Union Aviation Safety Agency] has published today an Airworthiness Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all flight operations of all Boeing Model 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX aeroplanes in Europe,” the agency said in a statement. “In addition EASA has published a Safety Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all commercial flights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU of the above mentioned models.”

Air Canada said passengers would instead be accommodated on flights through Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

Air Canada and Westjet have stood behind their Max 8 operations, while maintaining close contact with regulators.

Canada and the United States grew increasingly isolated on the short-term fate of the Max, as European regulators grounded the aircraft Tuesday.

The sense of urgency was being felt on the political level. Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who as early as Monday said he would fly on Max 8 aircraft, cancelled all his activities Tuesday to meet with aviation experts.

“All evidence is being evaluated in real time and we’re considering all potential actions,” he said in a tweet.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was too early to conclude what caused the crash outside Addis Ababa, and did not recommend emergency measures beyond changes ordered after the crash of a Lion Air plane in October.

The Association of Flight Attendants increased the pressure on the FAA Tuesday, urging the regulator to ground the Max 8.

“This is about public confidence in the safety of air travel,” said Sara Nelson, AFA president. “The United States has the safest aviation system in the world, but Americans are looking for leadership in this time of uncertainty. The FAA must act decisively to restore the public faith in the system. Again, we caution everyone to not jump to conclusions and not interrupt the integrity of the investigations.”

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