MIAMI – The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of Saudi Arabia has cleared the way for the Boeing 737 MAX to return to operations in the kingdom, after a ban of nearly two years.

Late on Sunday evening, the authority reported that the decision to lift the ban came after close cooperation with the International civil aviation community on reforms, licenses, and training to guarantee the highest standard of safety. The civil authority also published a Navigational Notice (NOTAM) that allows the MAX to resume service.

Clearance from GACA makes it possible to operate flights to the main Saudi market for UAE’s Flydubai (FZ), who are the second-largest 737 MAX customer in the world. The recovery of Flydubai will be significantly improving with more fuel efficient MAX short-haul routes such as UAE-Saudi. 

Mainly, the move enables MAX operators to travel from east to west through Saudi Arabia linking African destinations with the Middle East. Before GACA lifted its ban, MAX operators in the area had made business sense to take a few routes along with the jet.

Flydubai A6-FDY Boeing 737-8KN(WL). Photo: Marco Macca/Airways

The Boeing MAX Ban and Return

In March 2019, Boeing’s MAX was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes in five months involving the same model. One of the later nations to ban the Boeing 737 MAX was Saudi Arabia.

While the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and various countries of Asia and the Middle East had banned the aircraft, Saudi Arabia followed suit only in March. That was possibly made simpler by the fact that no local airlines were flying the type at the time and instead favored Airbus narrowbodies.

Saudi Arabia has thus become the latest country to re-approve Boeing 737 MAX operations in its airspace, following Europe and Australia. Late last year, Airlines in the United States and Brazil restarted commercial flights with the MAX following its cleared return.

Last month, TUI became Europe’s first passenger service provider to commence operation with the Boeing 737 MAX.

Featured image: Boeing