Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX cleared for take-off

The Malaysian flag-carrier says it could bring forward the arrival of its first Boeing 737 MAX jets.

By David Flynn, September 3 2021
Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX cleared for take-off

Malaysia is the latest country to lift its ban on the Boeing 737 MAX, 30 months after the troubled jet was grounded in the wake of two fatal crashes that killed 346 people.

The directive applies to both local and foreign airlines operating commercial flights in Malaysia, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Malaysia Airlines has 50 of the next-generation jets on order, with the worldwide grounding of 2019 and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic both seeing the flag-carrier's delivery schedule pushed out to 2024.

Speaking at a media briefing in early May 2021, where he also signalled the end of the airline's Airbus A380, CEO Izham Ismail said of the 737 MAX "we're committed to taking the MAX’s delivery in 2024, but we are also exploring the possibility of taking it earlier."

Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX business class

In brighter pre-pandemic days, Malaysia Airlines initially and ambitiously planned for its Boeing 737 MAX fleet to feature lie-flat seats in business class, and was said to be considering the popular Vantage platform from Thompson Aero Seating.

"I'm shamelessly copying what JetBlue have done with Mint, which is a fantastically innovative transcontinental product in the US," then-CEO Peter Bellew told Executive Traveller in July 2017 with an ebullient laugh. "I'm shamelessly ripping off their ideas!"

In an effort to target Asia's premium travellers, Bellew was keen on a suite-like approach with "a privacy panel you can pull across so it’s like a private cabin" and ideally direct aisle access for all passengers.

"There's a lot of wealthy people in Asia, a lot of people who lead extraordinarily busy lives, and to be able to get three to four hours' sleep on a flight is worth a lot of money to a lot of those people," he reasoned at the time.

However, by January 2019 – with the first Boeing 737 MAX due in early 2020 – the Oneworld member said it was "rethinking" its business class proposition and could instead choose a more conventional recliner, based on the length of Malaysia Airlines' likely regional MAX flights.

Those options presaged later decisions made by Asian competitors Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, with the former adopting the lie-flat Thompson Aero Vantage for its own forthcoming Boeing 737 MAX fleet while Cathay Pacific's new Airbus A321neo jets settled on a recliner, albeit one of the most advanced designs of its type.

Read more: What it's like inside Cathay Pacific’s new Airbus A321neo


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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