As airlines across the world count the cost of the ensuing grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, Eastar Jet, South Korea’s first carrier to take delivery of the type, has been forced to pause the launch of some new routes.
Eastar assistant manager Daniel Woo says that the airline's two 737 Max 8s would have been the ideal aircraft for longer routes in its network, such as Singapore-Busan, as well as Seoul-Phu Quoc.
The Singapore route, in particular, had been planned to launch in June, but is now on hold until the Max returns to the skies. Eastar vice-president Moon Jongbae says he wants to begin flying the route by the end of the year.
He adds that the airline could use its 737-800s on the route but would have to restrict the number of seats it sells, which would affect its profitability.
“In the summer, [we can only fill] 80%, and in winter, 70%,” Moon says of operating the flight with a 737NG
“It will impact the profitability of the route. If we use the [737-800], I cannot expect a profit on this route…[maybe only after] three to four years,” he adds, responding to FlightGlobal’s question on the impact of the Max’s grounding on the route.
Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows that Eastar operates 16 737-800s, along with two 737-900ERs.
Its two 737 Max 8s are now parked at Seoul Incheon airport, and Eastar continues to pay parking fees and lease rentals on them. Fleets Analyzer shows the two aircraft are leased from Minsheng Financial Leasing.
Woo says the airline hopes that the aircraft gets back into the skies by July or August.
As a result of the route suspensions, it has shifted focus on flights from Seoul and Busan to other cities such as to Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu, as well as to Japan.