Leisure company TUI Group has started re-introducing the Boeing 737 Max to service, with its Belgian carrier TUIfly conducting flights to Malaga and Alicante.

The initial aircraft (OO-MAX), a 737 Max 8, departed Brussels shortly before 09:45 on 17 February.

“At the moment we have a very small programme in Belgium with only up to two flights a day,” the carrier tells FlightGlobal. “The Max might only be used once a week from Brussels.”

TUI is one of a small number of European operators of the Max, which the European Union Aviation Safety Agency cleared for resumption of service in January following a prolonged grounding.

OO-MAX TUIfly 737 Max-c-TUIfly

Source: TUIfly Belgium

TUIfly Belgium’s first 737 Max (OO-MAX) was delivered in January 2018

The aircraft involved in the initial flight was originally delivered to TUIfly Belgium in January 2018 – the first Max to be taken by any airline in TUI Group – but has been out of service for nearly two of its three years in the carrier’s fleet.

TUIfly says its four parked aircraft were regularly inspected and underwent weekly maintenance and, following the fleet’s extensive period in storage at Brussels, the carrier conducted operational readiness flights to check the aircraft.

“These flights were operated without passengers, only with crew and an aircraft engineer,” the carrier says.

Each of these flights, lasting about 1h, involved an approach and a go-around and tested both manual and automatic landings.

Belgian civil aviation directorate chief Koen Milis says the regulator has “every confidence” in the certification work conducted by EASA.

TUIfly managing director Gunther Hofman says the 737 Max is “the most tested aircraft in history”, and welcomes the restoration of services.

“We are dependent on the travel advice of the Belgian government for our further flight planning, but we hope to be able to fly regularly again soon with the four aircraft,” he adds.

TUIfly Belgium is one of several TUI operators which have the Max in their fleets, including the company’s Nordic, Dutch and UK divisions. Other European operators of the 737 Max include Czech carrier Smartwings, as well as Norwegian and Icelandair.