UK-bound Boeing 737 MAX jets turn around in mid-air after ban imposed

Two Turkish Airlines aircraft have turned around in mid-air after the UK banned the Boeing 737 MAX 8 type from British airspace.

The aircraft were bound from Istanbul airport to Birmingham and Gatwick. 

They had taken off ahead of the Civil Aviation Authority ban on the MAX variant in UK airspace, which was announced shortly after 1pm UK time. 

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The Birmingham flight, operating as TK1969, was approaching Frankfurt in western Germany, about three hours into the four hour flight.

The Gatwick flight, TK1997, had covered just over half the journey and was over the Czech Republic when the order came to turn back.

Both aircraft are expected to arrive back in Istanbul at around 6.30pm local time (4.30pm GMT). Passengers will be re-booked on alternative flights from Istanbul.

At least 300 people who were planning to fly from Birmingham and Gatwick to Istanbul will need to wait and see what arrangements Turkish Airlines makes for carrying them. Some may be switched to alternative airlines, particularly if they are booked to destinations beyond Istanbul.

European air passengers’ rights rules requires Turkish Airlines to find an alternative flight as soon as possible, and to provide meals and accommodation while the passengers wait.

The airspace ban was imposed 48 hours after a crash outside Addis Ababa. All 157 passengers and crew aboard an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 died when it crashed shortly after take-off to Nairobi.

It was the second fatal accident involving what is a very modern aircraft. A Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crashed shortly after take off from Jakarta airport in October 2018, with the loss of 189 lives.

The Independent understands that the decision to return to base was taken by Turkish Airlines. The aircraft may have been allowed to land, but could have been grounded in the UK – providing an expensive problem for the airline.

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