Garuda Indonesia Seeks to Cancel Orders on Boeing 737 Max Planes

Tia Asmara and Ahmad Syamsudin
190322-ID-Garuda-1000.jpg In this image taken from video, a Garuda Indonesia airways Boeing 737 Max 8 is seen in a maintenance hangar before being inspected at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, March 12, 2019.

Indonesian national airline Garuda said Friday it was moving to scuttle a multibillion-dollar order for 49 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets after two deadly crashes of the same model, including last year’s crash of a Lion Air plane in the Java Sea.

Garuda Indonesia sent a letter to the Boeing Co., the American-based manufacturer of the Max 8, requesting a cancellation of the order worth at least U.S. $4.9 billion, Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said.

“The reason is our passengers have lost their trust in the aircraft after the recent events,” Ikhsan told BenarNews, referring to the Lion Air crash on Oct. 29 and an Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10. There were no survivors in the disasters, which both involved 737 Max 8s.

Ikhsan said airline officials were scheduled to meet in Jakarta on March 28 with a team from Boeing to discuss the matter.

“It’s possible that we’ll opt for a different model of Boeing aircraft,” he said.

Garuda has ordered 50 Boeing 737 Max 8s, but has only taken delivery of one.

According to the Associated Press, Garuda’s move marked the first cancellation by an airline of an order for the plane model.

This week, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it was ordering the temporary grounding of all 737 Max aircraft operated by U.S. airlines or in American territory, saying it based its decision on new evidence and data gathered at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in East Africa.

Indonesia is also among the countries that have grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8s operating in the country, pending inspections.

A Garuda passenger, Herry S.W., said he welcomed Garuda’s decision.

“It means that Garuda cares about the safety of passengers,” Herry told BenarNews.

He said he felt safer after authorities had decided to ground all Max 8 aircraft temporarily.

“So far, Garuda only has one Max 8. I think it is better to cancel the rest of the orders as a precautionary measure. As a passenger I'm happy because I don’t need to be anxious while on the plane.”

Garuda could cancel the order based on concerns that the plane is defective, according to Ruth Hanna Simatupang, an Indonesian aviation expert and former crash investigator.

“In the case of Boeing, it could be argued that the defect was known, and the two accidents can serve as evidence,” she told BenarNews.

She said she expected other airlines to follow Garuda’s move.

“Airlines are already postponing orders or considering cancelling them. This will affect the reputation of Boeing,” she added.

Officials with Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air have said that the airline was considering cancelling its order of 200 Max 8 planes and has postponed the delivery of four due for May. Lion has ordered a total of 222, including Boeing 737 Max 9s, in a deal worth U.S. $22 billion with Boeing.

Lion Air has 10 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in its fleet.

‘Clear similarities’

On. Oct. 29, 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 plane plummeted into the sea 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta’s international airport on October 29, killing all 189 people on board.

A preliminary report in on the Lion Air crash released in November revealed that the pilots had tried to pull the aircraft back up repeatedly when the aircraft’s automatic nose-down sensor was activated.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said there were “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash. All 157 passengers and crew were killed in crash of the Ethiopian airliner.

On Monday, Chicago-based Boeing sent a letter to airlines, passengers and the aviation industry in response to grave concerns raised about whether the Max 8 was safe plane to fly.

“Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in the letter, which was posted on the airplane manufacturer’s website.

“Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding,” Muilenburg went on to say.


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