India’s former full-service airline Jet Airways was one of the largest Boeing 737 MAX customers. Before going bankrupt, the carrier had five MAX airplanes in its fleet and more than 100 on order. However, the two fatal MAX 737 crashes and Jet Airways itself shutting operations had a massive impact on the airline’s MAX-related plans in India. But what exactly happened to Jet’s MAX airplanes? Let’s find out.
Huge MAX order goes down with the airline
Jet Airways relied heavily on the Boeing 737 series of aircraft for its busy domestic operations in India. Before going bankrupt in April 2019, Jet flew a narrowbody fleet of mostly 737 Next-Generation aircraft on domestic routes. Most of these were the 737-800 variant.
Before the suspension, the airline had 141 MAX airplanes on order valued at around $26 billion at list price. This was part of a larger plan of Jet’s fleet development as it was looking to phase out its older 737s with the more advanced and fuel-efficient MAX series of planes. With no prospects of Jet Airways emerging from the debacle at the time, Boeing removed the orders from its order book.
What happened to Jet’s MAX aircraft?
The sudden halt of Jet Airways’ operations put a huge question mark over its MAX order and some airplanes that were in the process of delivery. At the time, Boeing was assembling several of Jet’s MAX airplanes, and four were already in the carrier’s livery.
In 2019, Reuters reported that India’s LCC SpiceJet was contemplating taking some of Jet’s undelivered MAX airplanes. Referring to Jet’s undelivered planes sitting at the Boeing factory, SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh told Reuters at the time,
“Lessors are in touch with us for MAX aircraft including those. There is an opportunity to backfill, to make up for some of the lost time.”
The report also said that SpiceJet had agreed to take four of Jet’s MAX airplanes on the ground in India. The low-cost carrier had already absorbed more than 20 of Jet’s Next-Gen 737s, but none of Jet’s MAX airplanes have entered SpiceJet’s fleet so far.
In March this year, the Times of India (TOI) reported that Boeing had started ‘return to service’ modifications on Jet’s five airplanes in India. Sources familiar with the matter told TOI,
“A Boeing technical team is carrying out the return to service program for the five Max that were leased by erstwhile Jet Airways. This work has not started on the 13 Max of SpiceJet, which has not been paying lease rentals for these planes.”
According to ch-aviation, the five planes have gone back to their lessors and are currently stored as follows:
Four MAXs belonging to GECAS stored at Victorville Southern California:
The fifth MAX VT-JXE belonging to SMBC Aviation Capital is stored in Prague Ruzyne.
Future of MAX in India
Whenever Jet Airways starts operations again, it will be a much smaller airline initially. While the new owners will most probably go for the Boeing 737, it remains to be seen if they will opt for the MAX variant.
In August this year, India officially recertified the Boeing 737 MAX airplane, paving the way for airlines to operate the type again. As of now, SpiceJet is the only airline in India that has the MAX series of planes in its fleet – 13 in total. But the LCC has firm orders of 155 MAXs with options for up to 50 more. Indian startup carrier Akasa is also in talks with Boeing for a potential order of 70-100 MAX 8s.
Looking at the plans of these airlines, the future of the MAX series looks bright in India.