One of the UK’s largest airlines, TUI, will not follow other airlines and ground its Boeing 737 MAX planes, after the Ethiopia crash which killed all 157 people on board.
The cause of the crash on Sunday has not yet been determined. However, it is the second disaster involving the new aircraft in the past four months, after a Lion Air plane crashed off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 people onboard in October.
China’s civilian aviation authority has ordered all Chinese airlines to ground the 737 planes in light of the tragedy. Cayman Airways and Comair also said they would halt flights of the aircraft while an investigation takes place.
TUI, which in December became the first UK airline to welcome the new 737 MAX planes, said it had been given no indication by manufacturers that it couldn’t operate them.
A spokesperson for the airline, which currently has 15 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft across its entire fleet, five of which are in the UK, initially said the company wouldn’t comment on “speculation”.
But a later statement read: “TUI Airways remain in close contact with the manufacturer and regulatory authorities and we have no indication that we cannot safely operate our 737 MAX aircraft. The safety and wellbeing of our customers and staff remains our primary concern.”
A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines, which has also grounded its other 737 Max planes, confirmed the incident had occurred while the plane was heading from the the country’s capital, Addis Ababa on Sunday.
Ethiopia’s prime minister’s office said the Boeing 737 was on a regularly scheduled flight to Nairobi at the time.
The state-owned airline, which calls itself Africa’s largest carrier, said 149 passengers and eight crew members were on board the plane which crashed around 31 miles south of the capital six minutes after taking off.
“Search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties,” the statement read.
The Foreign Office said: “We can now sadly confirm at least nine British nationals were on board flight ET302. Our staff at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa are continuing to work with the relevant authorities in Ethiopia to obtain further information. We extend our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and those affected by this tragic event.”
Here is what we know so far about the victims:
– Anton Hrnko, an MP for the nationalist Slovak National Party, said he was “in deep grief” to announce that his wife Blanka, daughter Michala and son Martin were among the dead.
– Hospitality company Tamarind Group announced “with immense shock and grief” that its chief executive Jonathan Seex was among the fatalities.
– Paolo Dieci, a founder of an aid group that works with Unicef in Africa, was also reported as among the dead.
The International Committee for the Development of Peoples group said: “The world of international cooperation has lost one of its most brilliant advocates and Italian civil society has lost a precious point of reference.”
– The mayor of the northern Italian city of Bergamo said three members of humanitarian organisation Africa Tremila were on board.
Giorgio Gori said on Facebook that the aid group’s president Carlo Spini, his wife, and treasurer Matteo Ravasio were among the eight Italians killed.
– Sicilian regional culture ministry assessor Sebastiano Tusa was also reportedly on the plane.
– The African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe said co-chairman Karim Saafi had been a passenger on the flight and had been due to represent them at a meeting with the African Union in Nairobi.
“Karim’s smile, his charming and generous personality, eternal positivity, and his noble contribution to youth employment, diaspora engagement and Africa’s socio-economic development will never be forgotten,” a statement said.
– Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Football Kenya Federation, was named as being among the dead by Sofapaka Football Club.
He was due to return home on the flight after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.
– Austrian media reported that three doctors who were aged between 30 and 40 and worked at hospitals in Linz had died.
– Save the Children said its child protection in emergencies adviser Tamirat Mulu Demessie was among the dead.
He “worked tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable children are safe during humanitarian crises”, the charity said.
– Three of the Russians on board were tourists Yekaterina Polyakova, Alexander Polyakov and Sergei Vyalikov, the Russian Embassy in Ethiopia said. The first two were reportedly married.