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Ethiopian will be 'last' airline to resume Max flights: chief

Ethiopian Airlines will be the last airline globally to resume flights with the Boeing 737 Max once it has been certified to return to the skies.

Speaking at the IATA annual general meeting in Seoul today, Ethiopian chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters that the African carrier will only restart flights with the type "after the regulators decide and when we see airlines start flying it", adding: "We will be the last one".

Three months after the 10 March accident involving flight ET302, Gebremariam says it is too early to make a judgement on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) investigation into the cause of the crash as it is "still a work in progress".

"Lets see how they [the FAA] are going to handle it. Lets see the complete solution and also the certification, lets also see if they can convince the other regulators - then we can only make an opinion," he says.

Gebremariam says that Ethiopian Airlines has been a "long-time, Boeing-only customer" in the past, and while he would like to "maintain" that relationship, the "very tragic" Max crash will have "its own impact" on it.

He agreed that he was frustrated by the comments made by the FAA about the airline's pilots who were flying the aircraft, adding that the airline had made its position "clear" through press releases and public statements.

Gebremariam says at present the Addis Ababa-based carrier has no plans to alter its pilot training programme. He also asserts that the pilots who died in the crash will be ultimately be exonerated in the investigations.

Commenting on reports that one of its pilots has allegedly repeatedly warned senior management that its crew needed more training and better communication to crew members on the aircraft following the Lion Air crash in October 2018, Gebramariam says: "Its a very long story, that pilot had a problem for more than a year with us, so we had to terminate his contract."

He says the Star Alliance airline has "not yet decided" when it will take delivery of the remaining Max jets it has on order. Cirium's Fleets Analyzer shows the carrier has four Max 8s in storage and another 25 on order.

He also says the airline has not calculated the financial impact that the grounding of the type has had on its operations.

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