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SA airline finally grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8

Just hours after stating categorically that its new Boeing 737 MAX 8 would continue to fly in South Africa, Comair, a franchise partner of British Airways, backtracked amid growing criticism.

The company continued flying the aircraft despite Sunday’s Ethiopian Airways crash that killed all 157 people on board.

Questions have been raised about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 as Sunday’s disaster was the second fatal crash within five months involving this aircraft model.

The same Boeing 737 flight went down over the Java Sea last October, killing 189 people.

Comair has since said it was temporarily pulling the plane from its flight schedule, even though there was no reason to do so.

Early on Monday, the company had said it would continue flying the aircraft unless it received information that it needed to reassess the situation.

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Responding to that, South Africa’s Black First Land First (BLF) party called on British Airways to intervene and force its franchise partner to ground their aeroplanes that did domestic routes across the southern African country.

The low-cost carrier ordered eight of the Boeing 737 Max planes for delivery and the first of them was delivered two weeks ago. The plane, in British Airways colours, started flying South African routes last week and was still in the air on Monday from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

BLF expressed its unhappiness over the move, describing it as a highly irresponsible decision.

“The aircraft is obviously prone to fatal accidents as demonstrated by the recent two accidents which claimed scores of lives in Ethiopia and Indonesia,” said BLF spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp.

Mr Maasdorp said BLF expected the company to follow the example of China and ground all the Boeing 737 Max fleets it was operating.

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“The lives of people are more important than profits,” he said.

In a statement on Monday night, Comair said that it was confident in the inherent safety of the aircraft.

“Comair has decided to remove its 737 MAX from its flight schedule, although neither regulatory authorities nor the manufacturer has required it to do so,” Ms Wrenelle Stander, the executive director of Comair’s airline division, said.
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