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MAX “likely to be grounded until August”: IATA

As the association meets for its AGM in Seoul, its director-general delivers bad news for operators like TUI and Norwegian.

The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft type is likely to remain grounded until at least August, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.

The aviation association’s director-general, Alexandre de Juniac, told reporters in Seoul as aviation leader gathered there for the body’ annual general meeting that he didn’t expect the MAX to re-enter service for at least another ten to twelve weeks, the news agency Reuters reports.

IATA is planning to hold a summit in the coming five to seven weeks to discuss the issue and what still needs to happen for the MAX to take to the air again after being grounded in March following two air disasters in five months.

Investigations have focused on one of the aircraft’s control systems, for which Boeing is working on a software update.

“We do not expect something before 10 to 12 weeks for re-entry into service,” de Juniac said. “But it is not [in] our hands. It is in the hands of the regulators.”

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has so far declined to set out a detailed timetable for the aircraft’s return to service.

“If it takes a year to find everything, so be it,” acting director-general Dan Elwell said last week.

The delay appears to confirm the worst fears of the MAX’s operators. It is now unlikely, for example, that TUI Airways’ 15 MAXs will be available this summer.

Announcing TUI Group’s full-year results earlier this month, chief executive Fritz Joussen said he would need to know by the end of May whether its MAXs would be airworthy again.

TUI has estimated that an earlier date for the return of the aircraft would hit profits by 17% (€200 million), and if the MAX is unable to return before the winter season starts in November, then leasing and other costs would cut earnings by 26% (€300 million).

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