Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda has cancelled a multibillion-dollar order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after two fatal crashes involving the plane, the company said, blaming passengers’ loss of trust in the aircraft.
In what is thought to be the first formal cancellation for the model, Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said: “We have sent a letter to Boeing requesting that the order be cancelled.
“The reason is that Garuda passengers in Indonesia have lost trust and no longer have the confidence” in the plane, he said, adding that the airline was awaiting a response from Boeing.
As Boeing continued to work on a fix for the planes grounded by airlines across the world, reports on Friday suggested that the manufacturer would make it compulsory for airlines buying the aircraft to have one of two optional safety features installed.
The equipment alerts pilots of faulty information from key sensors. It will now be included on every 737 Max as part of changes that Boeing is rushing to complete on the jets by early next week, according to two people familiar with the changes.
Airlines can decide whether to pay for upgrades to a standard plane, a common practice in the industry which enables manufacturers to charge extra.
Garuda had already received one of the 737 MAX 8 planes, part of a 50-plane order worth $4.9bn at list prices when it was announced in 2014
Garuda is also talking to Boeing about whether or not to return the plane it has received, the spokesman told AFP.
The carrier had so far paid Boeing about $26m, while Garuda’s chief told Indonesian media outlet Detik that it would consider switching to a new version of the single-aisle jet.
“In principle, it’s not that we want to replace Boeing, but maybe we will replace (these planes) with another model,” Garuda Indonesia director I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra told Detik.
This month, Indonesia’s Lion Air said was postponing taking delivery of four new Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after an Ethiopian Airlines plane of the same model crashed minutes into a flight to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.
That came after a Lion Air jet of the same model crashed in Indonesia in October, killing all 189 people on board.
Shukor Yusof, head of Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, said Garuda’s announcement appeared to mark the first formal plans by a carrier to cancel an order for the 737 MAX 8.
It “will probably not be the last. There is a risk that Garuda’s rival Lion Air, which also has many 737 max 8 orders, might make the same decision”, he said.
The Lion Air and Ethiopia crashes both saw the planes experience erratic, steep climbs and descents as well as fluctuating airspeeds before crashing shortly after takeoff.
Investigators have honed in on an automated anti-stalling system introduced on the plane that is designed to point the nose of the plane downward if it was in danger of stalling.
Boeing’s state-of-the-art model will be outfitted with a warning light for malfunctions in the anti-stall system, an industry source told AFP on Thursday, standardising a feature previously sold as an optional extra.
The development comes as the US manufacturer struggles to cope with the fallout from the two crashes, which have cast a spotlight on the safety certification process and shaken confidence in a plane that is crucial to its future plans.