Fiji Airways has leased a Boeing 737-800 from Malaysia-based Malindo Air as cover for its grounded 737 MAX 8 fleet.
The 737-800 was expected to enter service for Fiji Airways on September 16, with Nadi-Brisbane the first route.
Malindo Air’s pilots and cabin crew will operate the aircraft, with Fiji Airways to have a purser or senior flight attendant also on board.
The aircraft was configured to carry 162 passengers in a two-class layout comprising 150 seats in economy and 12 seats in business. There was also seat-back in-flight entertainment at every seat.
Fiji Airways said on Tuesday the Malindo Air 737-800 would operate to Auckland, Brisbane, Christchurch and Sydney from the airline’s Nadi hub.
“The temporary lease arrangement ensures minimum disruption to guests’ travel plans,” Fiji Airways said in a statement.
“With its two-cabin configuration similar to that of a Fiji Airways Boeing 737, guests will be pleased with the onboard facilities of the leased aircraft.”
The Malindo Air 737-800 is the second leased aircraft Fiji Airways has deployed following the global grounding of the 737 MAX in response to the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight with the type in March 2019.
In April, Fiji Airways sourced a 737-800 from United States-based charter company Miami Air.
That aircraft, registration N739MA, was configured with 166 seats in a single-class configuration.
Flight tracking websites indicated the Miami Air 737-800 was returned to the lessor in August.
Fiji Airways received its first 737 MAX 8 in December 2018 and has two of the type in its fleet.
It had been due to receive a further three 737 MAX 8s in 2019. Instead, Boeing has paused deliveries as it worked software fix to an anti-stall feature on the 737 MAX implicated in both the Ethiopian Airways accident and another fatal crash involving a Lion Air flight in October 2018. The software update was currently being evaluated by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The 737 MAX 8s were slated to replace Fiji Airways’ existing narrowbody fleet of four 737-800s and one 737-700 used on short- and medium-haul routes to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
In July, Fiji Airways suspended its nonstop Nadi-Adelaide flights following a review of its network and fleet and taking into account a number of factors “including the aircraft currently available within our fleet”.
The route had been served by 737 MAX 8s until the global grounding of the fleet.