Air Niugini is delaying deliveries of four ordered Boeing 737 Max jets until at least 2024, and indicates it might reconsider operating the aircraft at all.

Managing director Alan Milne explains the delay was effected as the Papua New Guinean airline undertook a broader review of its fleet plan, including a study of replacement options for its Fokker regional jets.

“This will then determine if the Max is still appropriate for Air Niugini, or whether other Boeing products would better suit as a replacement for the airline’s existing Fokker, Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft types,” states Milne.

He says the 737 Max order could be switched to other aircraft from Boeing, or to smaller Embraer E2 jets. However, any such move would be contingent on Boeing’s plans to acquire the Brazilian airframer’s commercial division.

Airbus is also being evaluated as a potential supplier of replacement jets.

“Boeing remains a valued and long-standing supplier of aircraft to Air Niugini, and we are committed to working closely with them to satisfy our evolving future fleet requirements,” adds Milne.

Cirium fleets data show that Air Niugini’s fleet comprises six Fokker 70s, six Fokker 100s, two 737s and two 767-300ERs. The 737 Max order was placed in 2014, and deliveries were scheduled in stages: one in 2020, two in 2021, and one in 2022.

Fiji Airways has three 737 Max 8s on order and two in storage, while Virgin Australia has postponed delivery of its first Max 8 until 2021 at the earliest. The Australian carrier has 25 Max 8s and 15 Max 10s on order, Cirium fleets data shows.