Canadian carrier WestJet has announced its intention to return grounded 737 MAX aircraft to passenger service.

The Boeing 737 MAX has been temporarily grounded since March 2019, following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that claimed 346 lives.

The carrier will adopt a phased and transparent approach to return its grounded fleet.

WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said: “As we continue working with Transport Canada (TC) on the additional Canadian requirements, our first MAX will be ready to return safely to service as of 21 January.

“While we don’t have final confirmation on when TC will open Canadian airspace to the 737 MAX aircraft, in the interest of transparency we are sharing our intent to fly once this confirmation is received.”

WestJet will initially conduct non-commercial test flights for its MAX aircraft starting mid-January.

On 21 January, the airline plans to operate three round-trip flights a week, between Calgary and Toronto.

The announcement comes after TC safety experts validated the aircraft design changes and outlined requirements for Canadian carriers on 17 December 2020.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approved the aircraft for service on 18 November 2020.

Sims added: “We are dedicated to restoring guest confidence in this aircraft through our safe operation, while providing the transparency and the flexibility that some of our guests may still require.

“We will be forthcoming with our guests on where the MAX aircraft are flying, and we will be flexible with our change and cancel policy to ensure our guests can make their travel plans confidently.”

Last November, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) started its preparation to return grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to service.