WestJet scrubs 737 Max from busy winter holiday schedule, affecting thousands

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WestJet Airlines Ltd. is removing its grounded Boeing 737 Max jets from its schedule until at least Jan. 5, affecting thousands of passengers with travel plans during the busy winter holiday season.

The Calgary-based airline, which had earlier scrubbed the planes from schedules until Nov. 4, is the latest airline to make the change after authorities across the globe banned the 737 Max from the skies following two fatal crashes in five months.

Air Canada announced last month it won't be flying its 24 Max 8s until at least Jan. 8. Its chief financial officer has said he expects Transport Canada may not allow the plane to fly again until early next year.

Sunwing Airlines Inc. has said its four Maxes will be absent from the rotation until mid-May, with some 3,000 flights affected over the summer alone.

WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart says it will update schedules at the end of the week and start to send notifications Sunday to passengers with altered flight plans. She says the company has maintained 98 per cent of its total planned departures since skies closed to the Max on March 13.

The crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia killed a total of 346 people on board, including 18 Canadians.