Cayman Airways will continue to operate its new Denver route despite taking the decision to ground its long-range Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in the aftermath of the crash that killed 157 people in Ethiopia on Sunday.
Airline officials said Thursday that the route would be operated by one of the airline’s older Boeing 737-300 aircraft, though it will now likely require a fuel-stop part way through the journey.
One of the advantages of the new Max 8 planes is their greater fuel efficiency, which enabled Cayman Airways to make nonstop trips to the West Coast of the U.S.
CAL has suspended its plans to switch all its aircraft to the new design amid safety concerns about the planes, following crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia in the last six months.
The airline was among the first in the world to take the decision to ground its Max 8 planes in the wake of Sunday’s tragedy. Boeing has since been forced to ground its entire fleet of 371 Max planes following a decision by aviation regulators across the globe, including the U.S., U.K. and the European Union, to ban the planes from the skies until more information is available about the cause of the crashes.
The long-term implications for Cayman Airways’ fleet replacement plan are not yet clear.
Norwegian Air, which has 17 Max 8 aircraft and has ordered 100 more, was the first airline to state publicly that it would seek compensation from Boeing for any loss of revenue incurred as a result of having to park the aircraft, according to CNN.
Cayman Airways officials did not respond to questions on whether they planned to follow suit.
In a partial response to questions from the Cayman Compass, a company spokeswoman said, there could be some changes to the schedule in the coming weeks.
“There will be a few instances where we will have to cancel flights and protect the affected passengers on other flights. There will also be instances where we may have to change flight times based on our aircraft availability. We will communicate any changes to the affected passengers prior to their flight,” she said.
The Denver route will continue, she said, using the Boeing 737-300 or other aircraft where necessary.
“There may also be instances where we may have to contract with another carrier to provide ‘Substitute Service’ for certain flights,” she added.
Concern about the Max 8 centers on the similarities between the Lion Air crash in Indonesia and the Ethiopian Air crash over last weekend.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order grounding the planes Wednesday, saying new, enhanced satellite tracking data and physical evidence on the ground linked the Ethiopian jet’s movements to those of the Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea in October, killing 189 people.
“That evidence aligns the Ethiopian flight closer to Lion Air, what we know happened to Lion Air,” said Daniel Elwell, acting FAA administrator, according to an Associated Press report.
Officials at Lion Air have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome on its final voyage, the AP reported.
Boeing said in a statement that it backed the temporary ban on the planes.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”