Grounding of MAX 9s Could Affect Canadians’ Travel Plans

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Canadian airlines don’t fly the grounded Boeing 737 MAX 9, but Canadians could still be affected by schedule changes due to cancelled flights on other airlines.

Montreal-based aviation expert John Gradek told Canadian Press that Canadian travellers could be booked on routes affected by the grounding of United and Alaska Airlines flights.

WestJet has an interline agreement with Alaska Airlines, which allows travel across both networks on a single reservation. Air Canada and United have a codeshare deal that lets passengers book trips with either carrier to some 50 destinations in the U.S. and Canada, with hundreds of flights per day.

Alaska has 65 Max 9s — 28% of its fleet — and United has 79, or eight per cent.

According to FlightAware.com, United had cancelled 191 flights as of 8:30 a.m. EST on 09JAN, while Alaska had cancelled 106.

Canadians, of course, also fly other airlines in other countries. Both Copa and Aeromexico have grounded their MAX 9 jets. Turkish Airlines and Icelandair also have a few MAX 9’s in their fleet.

Meanwhile, there’s troubling news about the maintenance of MAX 9 planes in the U.S.

United Airlines on 08JAN said it has found loose bolts as it carries out inspections of door plugs on its grounded MAX 9 planes.

A door plug flew off a new Alaska Airlines MAX 9 over Oregon on Friday night, leaving a gaping hole in the fuselage and forcing pilots to turn back to Portland as winds howled through the cabin.

"Since we began preliminary inspections on Saturday, we have found instances that appear to relate to installation issues in the door plug - for example, bolts that needed additional tightening,” United said.

United Airlines said "installation issues" relating to door plugs would be "remedied" before the aircraft type would return to service, the BBC reports.

Alaska Airlines said it has found “some loose hardware” on some of its MAX 9 jets.

Aviation Week says a National Transportation Safety Board official on 08JAN said the door plug on the Alaska Airlines plane pivoted up and broke away from the aircraft, meaning the bolts used to hold the plug in place “either worked their way free or were never installed.”

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