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Gol suspends US service from Fortaleza after 737 Max grounding

Brazil's Gol has suspended its nonstop flights to Miami and Orlando from Fortaleza, following the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max.

The Sao Paulo-based carrier continues to operate to Miami and Orlando from Brasilia with Boeing 737-800s, which make a technical stop en-route for refuelling, a Gol spokesperson tells FlightGlobal.

Flight tracking websites show that the flights stop in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where Gol had previously made technical stops when it operated US flights with 737-800s.

Gol, which took delivery of its first 737 Max 8 in mid-2018, used the aircraft to resume US service in late-2018 with nonstop service to Miami and Orlando from both Brasilia and Fortaleza. But along with several airlines worldwide, it grounded its 737 Max fleet on 11 March shortly after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8 outside Addis Ababa on 10 March.

Gol's spokesperson says it is not immediately clear when the airline will be able to resume 737 Max service.

The airline was operating seven 737-8s before the grounding.

American Airlines operates nonstop between Brasilia and Miami with Boeing 757s, Cirium schedules data shows. LATAM Airlines flies nonstop between Fortaleza and Miami, and will suspend service between Fortaleza and Orlando after 30 March.

Prior to the 737 Max grounding, Gol's executives had spoken positively of demand for the US flights from Brasilia, which offered one-stop connecting service for travellers originating from Sao Paulo Congonhas.

Around "two-digits load factor" of the Brasilia routes originates in Congonhas, Gol chief executive Paulo Kakinoff told analysts on 28 February during an earnings call. The airline had pointed out that the connecting time in Brasilia of less than 1h is shorter than the cab ride from downtown Sao Paulo to Sao Paulo Guarulhos airport, where international service departs from.

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