China's three biggest airlines requested compensation from the US planemaker for losses the companies suffered over grounding 737 MAX jets and delayed deliveries.

In this file photo taken on March 13, 2019, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 for China Southern Airlines is pictured at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington.
In this file photo taken on March 13, 2019, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 for China Southern Airlines is pictured at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington. (AFP Archive)

China's three biggest airlines have filed claims seeking compensation from Boeing over the grounding and delayed delivery of 737 MAX 8 aircraft following two deadly crashes, Chinese state media reported on Wednesday.

The reports in various state-run media that China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Air China would seek payouts from the American aerospace giant come against the backdrop of an escalating US-China trade war.

China Southern is Asia's largest carrier by fleet size, China Eastern is the country's number two, while Air China is the state flag carrier.

'Great losses for the company'

A spokesman for China Eastern confirmed to AFP that a dispatch by state-run Xinhua news agency saying the airline had presented Boeing with a compensation claim was correct.

Neither the spokesman nor the report gave any financial or other details.

Spokespersons for China Southern and Air China could not immediately be reached for comment.

On March 11, China became the first country to order its airlines to ground the 737 MAX as a result of the two tragedies.

The day before, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board, including eight from China.

That followed the October crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX, which went down shortly after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

Xinhua had reported that "grounding Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes had resulted in great losses for the company (China Eastern), and the losses are still expanding".

Shanghai-based China Eastern has grounded its 14 MAX planes while the US aviation giant addresses the safety risks, Xinhua reported.

It was not immediately clear how many planes the other two airlines had grounded.

But Chinese media have previously reported that a combined 96 MAX aircraft were in service among all of China's carriers.

There was no immediate indication that the move was related to the increasingly bitter trade conflict. 

Fears of espionage

Trump launched the trade war last year to extract profound economic reforms from Beijing, accusing China of seeking to forge global industrial dominance through massive state intervention in markets and the theft of US technology.

The two sides have exchanged tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade.

The conflict has widened recently with the United States taking unprecedented steps to bar US technology sales to Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

Washington suspects Huawei has deep links with China's military which could allow Beijing to potentially use Huawei-enabled networks for espionage or cyber-sabotage.

Boeing acknowledged on Saturday it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots.

The firm's statement about the simulator marked the first acknowledgement of a shortcoming since the two accidents led to the worldwide grounding of the top-selling airliner.

The anti-stall system on the MAX models has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

Turkish Airlines also expects compensation

Turkish Airlines expects compensation from Boeing for losses over the grounding of a dozen 737 Max aircraft, the chairman of Turkey's flagship carrier was quoted as saying, adding that he would meet Boeing's chief executive on Friday.

Turkish Airlines grounded all commercial flights by Boeing 737 Max models on March 13 until uncertainty over the safety of the aircraft was resolved.

"There are undoubtedly steps that we expect them to take, in light of our expectations or the sector's realities, to resolve our losses, capacity issues we are experiencing and frequency problems to a certain extent," Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci said.

"They are taking these steps seriously since they are coming to visit directly at the highest level," Ayci said, adding that he expected the issue to be resolved by the end of the summer.

Source: AFP