Ethiopian Airlines has confirmed plans to return its B737 Max fleet into service, almost three years after the crash of flight 302, which killed 157 people.

The carrier confirmed on social media that it is in the final stages of resuming passenger operations with the B737 Max, with the first flight expected to take place on February 1, 2022.

The crash – which occurred on March 10, 2019 and followed a similar fatal crash of a Lion Air B737 Max aircraft in October 2018 – led to the worldwide grounding of all Max aircraft.

The FAA cleared the Boeing aircraft to fly again in November 2020, a move which was mirrored by The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the UK Civil Aviation Authority in early 2021.

Brazil’s GOL became the first airline to resume commercial flights operated by the B737 Max, a year and nine months after the grounding.

Brazil’s GOL becomes first carrier to resume B737 Max flights

In a statement Ethiopian Airlines’ Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam, said:

“Safety is our top most priority at Ethiopian Airlines and it guides every decision we make and all actions we take. It is in line with this guiding principle that we are now returning the B737 Max to service not only after the recertification by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), EASA of Europe, Transport Canada, CAAC, ECAA and other regulatory bodies but also after the return to service by more than 34 airlines around the world.

“In line with our initially stated commitment to become among the last airlines to return the B737 Max, we have taken enough time to monitor the design modification work and the more than 20 months of rigorous recertification process and we have ensured that our pilots, engineers, aircraft technicians, cabin crew are confident on the safety of the fleet.

“The airplane model has accumulated more than 275,000 commercial flights since the resumption of B737 Max operation a year ago. Ethiopian Airlines has put in place a rigorous and comprehensive processes to ensure that every plane in the sky is safe. In the next one month, we will update the travelling public on further details and progresses.

“We always prioritize customers’ safety and I am confident that our customers will enjoy onboard safety and comfort that we have been known for.”

This week Indonesian authorities also lifted a ban on B737 Max flights, paving the way for Lion Air to resume flights with the aircraft, although the carrier has yet to confirm plans to do so.