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

Part of a new housing development proposal for the former Alberni District Secondary School site. (SCREENSHOT)
Housing gap widens in Port Alberni

Vancouver Island city suffers from ‘missing middle’ to housing density

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires Vancouver Island wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The Port Alberni Train Station is located outside the entrance to Harbour Quay, on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Port Alberni gets funding to restore heritage train station

Historic train station needs seismic upgrades

Raw logs are loaded onto a logging ship from a log sort down the Alberni Inlet in March 2019. SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News
Port Alberni light on industrial land

Report finds few suitable locations for new industry

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Most Read