Updated January 25th, 2024 at 16:00 IST
China grants Boeing approval to resume 737 MAX 8 deliveries
Move comes as a boost for Boeing, which faced challenges, including the recent fallout from a cabin panel blowout on a 737 MAX 9 operated by Alaska Airlines.
China on Thursday said that it granted the US aerospace giant permission to resume deliveries of its 737 MAX 8 aircraft to local customers. This decision marks the end of an import freeze that was imposed on Boeing's 737 MAX series shortly after the initial delivery in 2019.
The move comes as a boost for Boeing, which has faced challenges, including the recent fallout from a cabin panel blowout on a 737 MAX 9 operated by Alaska Airlines.
On Wednesday, Boeing delivered its first 737 MAX to a Chinese airline since March 2019, specifically a 737 MAX 8 registered to China Southern Airlines. The aircraft is currently on the ground in Hawaii after its journey from the United States. China's approval is significant for Boeing, considering the importance of the Chinese market, which the company projects to contribute 20% of global aircraft demand through 2042.
The green light from China follows the design approval of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 by the Chinese aviation authorities on December 8, 2023, according to Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry. This development allows Boeing to resume deliveries of the aircraft to Chinese customers.
Boeing has faced challenges, including the US Federal Aviation Administration's restriction on expanding production of its best-selling narrowbody planes following the mid-air incident involving a 737 MAX 9. The emergency led to the grounding of 171 737 MAX 9 jets and the cancellation of numerous flights by US carriers.
Analysts suggest that the resumption of deliveries to China is a positive sign for Boeing, but it remains to be seen how rapidly Chinese carriers will accept 737 MAX aircraft. The decision also raises questions about the broader implications for strained trade relations between the United States and China, especially given the political dynamics surrounding commercial airline purchases.
While safety bans on the MAX have been lifted, the delay in new deliveries has been linked to escalating tensions between the two economic giants. Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow, notes that China's commercial airline purchases often carry political significance. However, he emphasizes that China cannot hold Boeing hostage to Washington politics, as it would risk becoming beholden to Airbus.
Boeing has been working to rebuild its relationship with China, one of the fastest-growing aerospace markets, and this recent development represents a positive step for the company. However, industry observers remain cautious, acknowledging that the decision calculus behind China's acceptance of Boeing aircraft is not entirely transparent. The handover of the 737 MAX 8 to China Southern Airlines is seen as a positive development, but its broader impact on trade relations and Boeing's market presence in China remains to be fully understood.
(With Reuters inputs)
Published January 25th, 2024 at 16:00 IST