Shuttered South African airline Comair sues Boeing over 737 MAX purchases

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 Max aircraft during a display at the Farnborough International Airshow, in Farnborough

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A shuttered South African airline sued Boeing Co for fraud over its agreement to buy eight 737 MAX planes and seeks damages of at least $83 million.

Boeing "placed profits over safety and led with a plan of deception," Comair's suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle said. Boeing declined to comment.

Comair said Boeing committed fraud over its failure to disclose problems with a key flight control system tied to two fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people and led to the MAX's 20-month grounding.

Comair operated flights for British Airways and its own brand until it halted operations in June.

The airline said Boeing refused to return $45.2 million in advance payments it made on seven MAX planes. It had paid for and received one 737 MAX.

Polish national airline PLL LOT sued Boeing in late 2021 in Seattle on similar grounds over 737 MAX purchases and the suit is pending.

LOT in October asked a U.S. judge in Texas to declare it was a crime victim in the Boeing 737 MAX criminal case and said it has at least $250 million in damages.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled in October people killed in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes are legally "crime victims." LOT argued it should have the same rights.

Last month, Boeing pleaded not guilty to a 737 MAX fraud conspiracy felony charge after families objected to a 2021 Justice Department deferred prosecution agreement to resolve the investigation into the plane's flawed design.

O'Connor had ordered the arraignment. O'Connor is weighing a request from families to appoint an independent examiner to oversee Boeing's compliance with the agreement. Boeing opposes the request and says it has been in compliance with the agreement for the last two years.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)