Five at Gran Canaria airport and one at Tenerife South have been taken out of use – the latter being a Thomson craft and the others including a TUI and a Travel Service.
Of the Gran Canaria Boeings, three are operated by the low-cost carrier Norwegian, which runs regular flights from several Spanish airports to and from the UK and is a relatively new service, having launched around seven years ago, and whose facilities include free-of-charge onboard WiFi.
The European Air Safety Agency (EASA) issued an emergency announcement yesterday (Tuesday) calling for all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to be grounded.
Spain’s airport governing body AENA says two Norwegian flights had to be cancelled at the last minute, although passengers were placed on other aircraft run by the same company and reached their destination with minimal delay.
Also, says AENA, a TUI flight between Banjul (Gambia) and Amsterdam (The Netherlands) was given the order in mid-air to land immediately at the nearest airport, which turned out to be Gran Canaria.
Passengers got an impromptu mini-break in the Canary Islands, as the sudden landing meant they had to be put up in hotels on the island and were due to take off around lunchtime today (Wednesday).
Two crashes in six months – a Lion Air internal flight between Denpasar, Bali and Jakarta, Java in Indonesia in October, and Monday’s Ethiopian Airlines tragedy which killed 157 passengers and crew, including seven Brits and two Spaniards and dozens of United Nations employees and aid workers – have led to a dramatic halt in the use of these aircraft until technical reviews can be carried out.
In both accidents, the aircraft were new or had only been in use for a year or so, and certainly, in the case of the Ethiopian Airlines pilot, the company said his record was impeccable and he was very experienced, with over 8,000 flying hours under his belt.
Air crashes are normally caused by technical problems, human error or, in some cases, natural disasters or weather conditions, although pilots will divert around these or request emergency landings if they are likely to pose a danger, aviation experts say.
According to a report on the British media channel, the BBC crashes in new aircraft ‘just do not happen’.
Spain’s foreign minister Josep Borrell had just left Addis Ababa airport hours before the doomed craft, destined for the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, took off and then crashed just six minutes into its flight 42 kilometres from the Ethiopian city.
Although a handful of African airlines are on the European Union’s blacklist, Ethiopian Airlines was not one of them and is a modern company which exceeds all international standards.
Borrell said Addis Ababa airport is one of the most modern and high-tech on earth.
He had been in Ethiopia for the AmChamSpain global business and competition conference along with every Spanish ambassador on the African continent.
According to Borrell, a number of Spanish business professionals were due to fly to Nairobi on the ET302, but changed their tickets at the last minute, saving their lives.