DALLAS – After an almost four-year break, the first commercial flight of a Boeing 737 MAX has taken place in China.
According to Flightradar24, the China Southern Airlines (CZ) flight departed Guangzhou (CAN) bound for Zhengzhou (CGO) at 12.45 local time. This was operated by B-1206, delivered in November 2017. The type also performed a second flight from CAN to Wuhan (WUH), B-1127, delivered in September 2018.
The last time a 737 MAX flew in China was in March 2019 after its global grounding following two fatal crashes. The country was the first to ground the type and is the last major market to return it to the skies.
CZ has rostered the 737 MAX to operate future flights, which appears to represent a broader return to service of the type. This follows a rebound in domestic air travel after the Chinese authorities relaxed its Covid policies. CZ was set to return the MAX to the skies in October 2022, but the return was delayed.
The airline is the biggest customer of the 737 MAX, with 50 of the -8 on order, 24 of which it has already received. Each CZ airframe is configured with 178 seats in a tree-class layout, with four in business, 24 in premium economy and 150 in economy.
According to Cirium data, Chinese airlines had a total of 97 of the type before the grounding. In October 2022, the US plane maker said it had 138 airframes ready to be delivered to Chinese carriers. However, Boeing had begun offering these to other airlines.
On October 10, 2022, the type returned to Chinese airspace after MIAT Mongolian Airlines (OM) used one of its 737-8s to fly from Ulaanbaatar’s Chinggis Khaan International Airport (UBN) to CAN.
Boeing now hopes that it will be able to rebuild its presence in China, the world’s second-largest aviation market. However, it faces stiff competition from European rival Airbus, as well as the Chinese C919, which began test flights with launch customer China Eastern Airlines (MU) in December 2022, with a planned entry into service for April this year.
Featured Image: China Southern (CZ) Boeing 737-8. Photo: Nick Sheeder/Airways.