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 Vancouver 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.

READ MORE: WestJet’s 737 Max to be first to return to Canadian skies after global grounding

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.

READ MORE: WestJet puts 1,000 workers on leave, citing government’s ‘Incoherent’ policy

— With files from Dan Healing in Calgary.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BoeingBoeing MaxWestJet

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

Just Posted

Fish and Loaves Humane Society volunteers Bobby Burns, left, and John Enns, right, receive Volunteer Recognition Awards from acting mayor Duncan McMaster during the free food hand out at the Tofino Legion on Feb.24. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino Fish and Loaves volunteers Enns and Burns cheered for community service

“He’s a very conscientious and hard-working, giving volunteer.”

Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen has resigned his position and is heading south-Island. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen resigns

Mayor Mayco Noel says he and his council “completely caught off guard”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March. 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino councillor candidates identify differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new municipal councillors on March 6.

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Most Read