With Boeing 737 Max grounded, some routes no longer feasible

Cayman Airways' Boeing 737 Max jet in Denver earlier this month.
Cayman Airways' Boeing 737 Max jet in Denver earlier this month.

DENVER -- The Boeing 737 Max has enabled airlines to fly further than they could before with a narrowbody jet. 

And so, the plane type's worldwide grounding following the Ethiopian Airlines crash has left some airlines struggling to fly routes that are ideal for the 737 Max but not so for other aircraft. 

Executives of the Orlando and Denver airports discussed the challenges faced by two airlines, Gol and Cayman Airways, at the CAPA Centre for Aviation's 2019 Americas Aviation Summit.

Last November, Gol launched Brasilia-Orlando service, the longest Boeing 737 route in the world. The Brazilian carrier had said the Max 8 enabled it to begin flying to North America. 

With the Max 8 grounded, Gol is flying an older-generation Boeing 737 NG on the daily Brasilia-Orlando route, said Vicki Jaramillo, Orlando International Airport's senior director for marketing and air service development. 

But since NGs don't have the range to fly the approximately 4,000 miles between Brasilia and Orlando, Gol is stopping in Punta Cana to refuel.

Gol's international expansion plans are likely on hold because of the 737 Max grounding. In December, the airline had said it planned to introduce a new international destination each quarter for the next two years due to the Max 8. 

Similarly, Cayman Airways touted the Max 8 earlier this month, when the airline launched service from Grand Cayman to Denver -- the furthest west the airline has flown.

Since grounding the 737 Max, Cayman Airways has flown the route with a Boeing 737-300 and has also used charter carrier Eastern Airlines, which flew Grand Cayman-Denver with a Boeing 767-300 widebody, said Laura Jackson, Denver International Airport's vice president of air service development. When operating the route with the 737-300, Cayman Airways expects to make refueling stops on some legs, depending upon passenger loads and wind or other atmospheric conditions, the carrier said. 

Other airlines have had to make similar moves. Instead of the much smaller Max 8, Norwegian Air is using widebody Boeing 787 Dreamliners on routes from Europe to New York Stewart (an airport about 60 miles north of Manhattan).

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