Sunwing suspends Max 8 operations

Sunwing has grounded its fleet of four Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft (photo: Boeing).

A first crack has appeared in a decision by Canada’s airlines to continue flying the Boeing Max 8 aircraft. Sunwing announced late Tuesday it would ground its four Max 8s “for evolving commercial reasons unrelated to safety.”

Sunwing made the decision despite assurances from the Federal Aviation Administration that the Max 8 is safe to fly.

Major aviation regulators around the world, including China, Australia and Europe, have grounded the type, sparking an unusually public disagreement with the FAA.

The bans came after a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians. It was the second crash for the Max 8 in less than five months.

Sunwing expressed confidence in the ongoing investigations and regulators, but said it was forced to act by “airspace restrictions being imposted by some of our partner destinations.”

Sunwing said it was working to notify and rebook passengers.

“We will endeavor to minimize the impact of these schedule changes, which we believe is achievable given that the Max makes up less than 10% of our fleet.”, and believed it could accommodate most passengers on other flights, since the Max makes up less than 10% of the airline’s fleet.”

Sunwing’s decision leaves 37 Max aircraft flying in Canada with Air Canada and Westjet.

The decision risks increasing pressure on federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who cancelled meetings on Tuesday to focus on the evolving crisis. Garneau has preached patience, advising Canadians not to jump to conclusions about the plane’s safety.

He has called a news conference for Wednesday morning with top ministry officials.