Saturday, July 20, 2024
737 Max 9 grounding set to impact international cargo and parcels

737 Max 9 grounding set to impact international cargo and parcels

The mandatory grounding of many Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, after a door plug blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight last week, will affect international freight and courier services, warns the international delivery expert ParcelHero.

Since Saturday, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded 171 Max 9 aircraft that were installed with the same door plug. A number of other countries’ airlines also operate Max 9 aircraft.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘It was very fortunate that no lives were lost when a section of a Boeing 737 Max 9’s fuselage blew out, minutes after take-off from Portland, Oregon, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.

‘The grounding of many Max 9 aircraft will have an impact on global freight and parcels. International goods and packages are not only flown in specially designed cargo aircraft. Many passenger aircraft, including the 737 Max 9, are equipped with dedicated cargo holds to safely transport freight and small parcels.

READ: Boeing CEO promises “complete transparency” after 737 Max 9s are grounded

‘These particular aircraft can carry up to 5 tons of freight, depending on version, says Iceland Air, another operator of this type of aircraft. Alaska Air says it permits parcels of up to 34 x 45 x 46 inches in the belly hold of its 737 Max 9 passenger aircraft.

‘The ill-starred Boeing 737 Max series of aircraft has had an unfortunate history. Back in 2019, all 737 Max 8s were grounded for many months, following two tragic accidents that resulted in the loss of almost 350 lives. If this new grounding is extended to other forms of Max 9, there could be more severe consequences for air cargo.

‘According to China’s Interfreight Logistics, some 737 Max 9s have a freight capacity of up to 9,037kg (19,931lbs or around 9 US tons). Relatively speaking, these have quite a large cargo hold, with a volume of 50.5m³ (1,786 cu.ft), notably more than some of its sister aircraft, such as the 737-300.

‘Obviously, the loss of many Max 9s will have a knock-on effect, particularly for services to and within the USA. Cancelled services, or the substitution of these aircraft by other types of planes with potentially smaller cargo capacity, will cause delays to deliveries and have the potential to increase rates.

‘Alaska Airlines has cancelled about 20% of its flights after 65 of its Max 9s were grounded. United Airlines, the other US 737 Max 9 operator, has 79 of the planes in its fleet out of action. The FAA is currently saying it won’t be rushed into announcing a date when these planes will be permitted to fly again.

‘It’s not only services to and within the USA that will be impacted. The Max 9’s grounding could also disrupt services to many other countries. Skift, a news site for travel industry executives, reports several airlines have followed the FAA in suspending aircraft. Nine airlines use Max 9s globally, with around 215 currently in service.

  • Dubai – Fly Dubai
  • Iceland – Iceland Air
  • Indonesia – Lion Air
  • Kazakhstan – SCAT
  • Mexico – Air Mexico
  • Panama – Copa Airlines
  • Turkey – Turkish Airlines
  • USA – Alaska Airlines and United Airlines

READ: United Airlines finds loose bolts on multiple 737 Max 9 aircraft

‘Not all these operators use the same configuration of Max 9 as the Alaska Airlines version, which has a door plug in place of an emergency exit. However, all airlines will be carefully inspecting their Max 9s to ensure that they are not subject to further defects.

‘The timing of the incident could not be worse. Shippers using both the Suez and Panama canals currently face considerable delays and issues, so some companies had turned to the increased use of airfreight to bypass these problems. We do advise everyone sending items to the US to regularly check ParcelHero’s USA page, which gives full details on any changes in prices, Customs advice, and details about sending food etc.

Picture of James Graham

James Graham

James Graham is an award-winning transport media journalist with a long background in the commercial freight sector, including commercial aviation and the aviation supply chain. He was the initial Air Cargo Week journalist and retuned later for a stint as editor. He continues his association as editor of the monthly supplements. He has reported for the newspaper from global locations as well as the UK.


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