Dubai-based low-cost carrier Flydubai has grounded its fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft following the directive issued by the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

Flydubai made the announcement on 12 March, two days after an Ethiopian Airlines flight using a Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed, killing all 157 people on board.

It is the second accident involving this aircraft in five months. A flight operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea in October, claiming the lives of 189 passengers and crew members.

MEED understands Flydubai has at least 11 Boeing 737 Max 8 and two Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft. The majority of its active fleet comprises Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

At least 23 airlines grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft between 11 and 12 March.

Aviation regulators in the UAE, UK, EU, Singapore and Australia likewise banned the aircraft from flying in their air space.

In a statement, Boeing said it is making extensive changes to the flight control system of the aircraft.

Investigators in the Lion Air crash have cited that the aircraft’s anti-stall system was triggered upon receiving erroneous data, which sent the plane’s nose sharply downward.

Following this finding, Boeing directed all airlines to a checklist in manuals for stabilising the aircraft when such an event occurs.

The US has so far not grounded the aircraft.

Flydubai is understood to be the second-largest customer for the modern, fuel-efficient aircraft. The airline placed an order for 225 737 Max aircraft, valued at approximately $27bn, in November 2017.

In 2018, the airline closed two financing structures to support the delivery of four Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft and three Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft through the Japanese Operating Lease, with a Call Option (Jolco) as well as a sale and leaseback structure.

Flydubai also announced it has secured a 10-year financing facility through a consortium of commercial banks to support the construction of its new headquarters, due for completion in the first half of 2020.

Flydubai registered a $43.5m loss in 2018 against an annual revenue of $1.7bn.

Francois Oberholzer, Flydubai chief financial officer, said the firm’s annual loss was largely due to “increasing fuel costs, rising interest rates and unfavourable currency exchange movements”.

The carrier, which maintains 64 aircraft, started operating flights to 11 destinations from Dubai International’s Terminal 3 in 2018, as part of its codeshare partnership with Emirates Airline.

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