India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday, has denied UAE’s low-fare carrier, Flydubai’s request to operate the Boeing 737 Max to India or fly it across the Indian airspace.

 “We will need some more time to gauge the performance of the aircraft and therefore the permission has been denied for the time being,” said Arun Kumar, Director General of DGCA.

“Flydubai will only operate its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in airspace where the regulator has approved it for passenger service” said a spokesperson. On Tuesday, the Dubai-based budget carrier had announced that its Maxes would return to service from April 8. “This follows the airline’s compliance with all of the requirements outlined in the Safety Decision issued by its regulator, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), to ensure the safe return of the aircraft to service,” it had said in a release.

Flydubai currently has a fleet of 14 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft; 4 of its MAX 8s and one of its MAX 9s have now received regulatory approval to re-join its fleet.

The Max has been globally grounded since March 2019 after two fatal air crashes. A total of 346 people died in these two crashes. India is yet to grant permissions for airlines to operate the Max to India or fly it across the Indian airspace. The B737 Max has recently taken to the skies again in several parts of the world, following approvals of aviation regulators from several countries.

The performance of the aircraft in foreign jurisdiction is being closely monitored by the DGCA. Boeing on Wednesday commented that 20 airlines across the world have pushed the 737 Max back into service. The DGCA will however conduct its own due diligence, said Kumar.

Currently in India, SpiceJet is the only operator with 13 Boeing 737Max aircrafts in its fleet, while the defunct Jet Airways has 5 of these aircrafts parked in India.  India will approve permissions to airlines to fly this aircraft in its airspace only after carrying out the required corrective modifications.

Boeing had recently started “return to service” modification work on the five B737 Max aircrafts of Jet Airways. Once the modifications are complete, the two foreign lessors of these five aircrafts will seek India’s approval to either fly them to their home countries or to new customers abroad. SpiceJet will begin working on the modifications only after the Indian DGCA approves these changes.


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