Gol remains hopeful that the 737 Max 8 will be back in service, but admits it could run out of Boeing jet until July, Celso Ferrer, the airline’s vice president of operations, said at a conference on Thursday. The executive acknowledged that during the low season the new aircraft is not essential, however, the company makes plans to operate again from April.
According to Ferrer, Gol still does not have a strategy outlined if the grounding of the 737 Max lasts longer and affects the high season. However, he admits that the option will be to lease more jets from the previous series, NG. The airline currently operates 106 737-800, the base of the fleet, as well as another 24 737-700, with smaller passenger capacity.
About Max, should Boeing be able to resume deliveries, Gol is expected to receive 16 aircraft by 2020 that are finalised. Added to the 7 aircraft already delivered, the company will end the year with 23 model units, capable of carrying 186 passengers. By 2024 there will be 51 planes that are expected to withdraw part of the older Boeing aircraft.
Due to the need for extra crew training on the 737 Max, the company is negotiating to receive a flight simulator in Brazil. The equipment will be critical now that the manufacturer has admitted that the transition to the new series will require pilots to accumulate hours in these simulators.
The 737 Max crisis occurred at a time when Gol had decided to resume its flights to the United States. With greater range, the jet allowed the company to connect Brasilia and Fortaleza to Orlando and Miami with direct flights. Prior to that, the 737-800 even operated on similar routes, but with a troublesome stopover in the Caribbean – and has resumed since the 737 Max landed in March.
Boeing’s advanced version would also allow the company to create new nonstop routes in South America and, above all, reduce fuel consumption, the great virtue of the project. The airline was so optimistic that even the largest version of the 737, the 230-seat Max 10, was ordered.
Like other Boeing client airlines, Gol also sees its already produced aircraft parked at US airports waiting for the FAA’s decision to approve its return to service. But from recent events this day seems far away. Meanwhile, the Brazilian company was forced to temporarily lease jets, which turned its fleet into a mix of aircraft with different paint and cabin standards.
Nevertheless, Paulo Sergio Kakinoff, the company’s CEO, reaffirmed the standardized fleet philosophy on Thursday. The executive said he sees no reason to change this strategy, even if it affects some routes. To address this, the company has partnered with regional airlines such as VoePass and TwoFlex, selling tickets to destinations operated by them with turboprop aircraft such as the ATR and Caravan, which are much smaller than 737. According to Kakinoff, “whenever a market has enough demand to receive a Boeing 737 let’s go there,” he said.
The president of Gol predicts that he will have an offer increase of up to 8% in 2020 even with so many undecisions and will announce in the coming weeks a new code share in the United States. After being left by Delta Air Lines, which decided to acquire 20% of rival Latam, Gol is talking to American Airlines and United Airlines, although the former has everything to be a favorite.