India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have formally allowed the Boeing 737 Max aircraft to operate in Indian Airspace, after their original grounding over safety concerns in March 2019. Image: Florian Klebl, (Flickr)
This follows similar decisions by other aviation authorities in the European Union, United States and United Arab Emirates. This change in attitude to the Max family comes after a well-publicised and extensive hardware and software update program.
At present, SpiceJet is the only Indian operator of the 737 Max. According to fleet data from IBA's aviation intelligence platform InsightIQ, the Indian low-cost carrier currently has 13 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in service, though currently all of these airframes are stored. SpiceJet currently has 128 outstanding Max aircraft orders. SpiceJet Max fleet activity peaked in February 2019 with 1,983 flights operated before tumbling to the grounded status in March 2019. SpiceJet's 737 MAX 8 fleet expects to re-enter into service in September, after being inactive for nearly 30 months.
SpiceJet is to utilise its settlement with Max lessor Avolon to coordinate the return to service of its Max fleet.
Whilst the Max family has had more than its fair share of well published troubles, data from InsightIQ shows that in July 2021, more 737 Max flights were conducted globally than in any single previous month (including before the March 2019 grounding) indicating a solid bounce-back trajectory for the type. August figures are higher still.
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Whilst 737 MAX sale and leaseback rates look set to strengthen in the near term, the future looks bleak for direct lease rates. As far back as the mid 2018s, lessors were experiencing difficulty placing the MAX, resorting to placements with weaker credit airlines at increasingly softer rates. By the end of the 2018s, rates had dipped as low as $270,000 - $280,000 and, as 2019 dawned, even before its grounding many lessors and operators were questioning the MAX's value against the comparative attraction of its 737-800 sibling.