Garuda Indonesia has removed the sole Boeing 737 MAX in its fleet, returning the jet to its leasing company owner. The MAX 8 has been out of service over the past three years after it was grounded in March 2019 in the wake of two deadly MAX crashes.

Garuda Indonesia returns MAX to owner

Having spent the past three-and-a-half years in storage, Garuda Indonesia's only Boeing 737 MAX has officially left the airline's fleet. Garuda has returned the jet to its lessor as it makes a series of significant fleet adjustments.

On July 19th, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 (registration: PK-GDA) departed its storage home at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK), Jakarta, en route to Woensdrecht Air Base near the city of Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands, stopping over at Al Ain International Airport on the way.

Indonesia, Boeing 737 MAX, Lion Air
Garuda Indonesia backed out of an order for 50 Boeing 737 MAX jets. Photo: Boeing

The jet had been parked in Jakarta since March 2019 in the aftermath of the two MAX crashes involving Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines. Despite Indonesia giving the green light to Boeing 737 MAX operations in December 2021, Garuda Indonesia never returned its sole MAX to service.

Garuda Indonesia has an order with Boeing for 50 737 MAXs but wants to cancel after taking delivery of just one MAX, with the debt-ridden carrier unable to fulfill the $4.9 billion deal.

Boeing 737 MAX 8 - PK-GDA

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is just under five years old and entered service with Garuda Indonesia in December 2017. The aircraft spent just 15 months in active service before MAX aircraft worldwide were grounded in early 2019.

According to ch-aviation, the jet clocked in over 3,000 flight hours before being withdrawn. The MAX is configured with a two-class layout - eight in business class and 162 in economy.

The aircraft is owned by Chinese leasing firm Bocomm Leasing, a fully-owned subsidiary of China's Bank of Communications. Bocomm Leasing was established in 2007 and has grown into one of the largest aviation lessors in China.

The firm now boasts 170 aircraft in its portfolio with a further 200 on order, serving over 50 domestic and international clients.

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Rejigging the fleet

With Garuda Indonesia's restructuring reaching a critical phase this year, the carrier has made some key decisions regarding its fleet. Garuda plans to operate between 60 and 70 aircraft by the end of 2022, amounting to a 30-40% reduction and considerably lower than earlier estimates of over 100 aircraft.

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Garuda 737-800
Garuda will reactivate its Boeing 737-800 fleet in the coming weeks. Photo: Terence Ong via Wikimedia Commons 

The airline will focus on serving short-haul and domestic routes while trimming back long-haul operations.

Simple Flying explored the largely inactive Garuda Indonesia fleet in more detail last month, noting that only 38 of its 108 aircraft are active. The beleaguered Indonesian carrier will also return its Bombardier CRJ1000s to lessors Nordic Aviation Capital and Export Development Canada, beginning with two aircraft this month.

What are your thoughts on Garuda Indonesia's restructuring plan?