Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Passengers aboard the first Boeing 737 Max flight in Canadian airspace in nearly two years weren’t overly concerned about the plane’s safety, saying they trusted that regulators had addressed any issues with the aircraft.

Four people travelling on WestJet’s Thursday morning flight from Calgary to Vancouver said they had no issues boarding the Max, which was grounded worldwide in March 2019 after two deadly crashes that were found to be caused by a faulty sensor.

“It’s interesting to be the first one on it, but I’m not too concerned,” said Chloe Marshall, who wasn’t aware in advance that she would be flying on the aircraft. “I think they have protocol in place and they know what they’re doing, so I just trust the process.”

As it returns the aircraft to service, WestJet has sought to ease customers’ concerns about the plane by notifying passengers in advance if they are scheduled to fly on a Max and implementing flexible policies for those who wish to rebook on another flight.

Three other passengers on Thursday’s flight to Vancouver said they had been notified of the aircraft type ahead of time. Passenger Lowell Van Zuiden pointed to the lengthy review process in explaining why he had no concerns about boarding.

“I suspect that they’ve probably gone through about as much certification, checking, and everything else as they possibly can, so I’m not worried about that,” Van Zuiden said.

WestJet flight 115 landed at Vancouver International Airport at 8:12 a.m. local time, carrying 71 passengers. Starting tomorrow, WestJet is set to begin flying the Max three times a week between Calgary and Toronto.

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace on Wednesday, as long as operators made changes to the design of the aircraft, including allowing pilots to disable an alarm system found to be central to both crashes. Pilots will also have to undergo specialized training in flight simulators.

Upon WestJet flight 115’s arrival in Vancouver, WestJet executives held a press conference in which they celebrated the milestone and emphasized the design changes made to the aircraft since it was grounded by Transport Canada in March 2019.

“The return of WestJet’s Max aircraft marks an operational milestone after 22 months of intense review and considerable learning,” WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said during the press conference.

“While of course this is a very different operating environment than any of us would wish due to COVID-19, we use today as a milestone to look forward to days ahead when all 30 of our Boeing Max 8 aircraft are once again connecting Canadians across the length and breadth of our wonderful country,” Sims said.

WestJet will offer additional flexibility in its change and cancellation policies to customers scheduled to fly on the Max, with different conditions depending on how far in advance a passenger wants to change the itinerary.

The policies granting extra flexibility will be applicable until Feb. 28, the website says, but a WestJet spokeswoman said the company has no plans to change or remove the policies after that date.

On its website, WestJet says passengers booked on a Max who are looking to change their flight more than a day from departure can book on a different flight within 24 hours of the original flight at no additional cost. They can also book on a flight outside the 24-hour window with no change fee.

Passengers will be able to cancel their trip until one day before the flight to receive a travel credit.

The airline does not address fees for passengers looking to change flights less than a day in advance, but invites them to contact the airline to manage the booking.

Air Canada is expected to follow WestJet in returning the Max to commercial service on Feb. 1. Sunwing, which also flies the Max, has not yet announced when it plans to return the plane to service.

Like WestJet, Air Canada plans to give passengers booked on a Max special options for changes to their trip, including the option of changing their flight at no extra charge.

Carriers in the U.S. that have started flying the Max have rolled out similar policies, including announcing the type of aircraft during boarding, in an effort to be transparent with passengers.

— With files from Dan Healing in Calgary.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press

BoeingBoeing MaxWestJet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

Dr. Stanley Read
Hometown Bashaw doctor recognized with alumni award for AIDS work

Dr. Stanley Read, born and raised in Bashaw, is considered a global health leader

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
UPDATED: Located

Kenneth Gilbert was last seen in Camrose County on Feb. 25

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

(File photo/Lauren Collins Vana)
UPDATED: Ponoka cat owners have until July 1, 2021 to purchase licenses

Town council passed new Animal Control Bylaw Feb. 23

A ” Justice for Jeff” T-shirt. (Photo submitted)
Rally to be held outside Red Deer courthouse for slain Ponoka man

Sentencing for accused charged with manslaughter with a firearm set for March 4

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Time to check the mail: Every household to receive a Canada Post postcard this spring

Postcard can be mailed for free to any address in Canada

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

Most Read