Boeing finally has found buyers for its troubled 737 Max jets, the first firm orders for its bestselling plane since it was grounded in March.
At the Dubai Airshow Tuesday, Boeing (BA) announced an order for 20 of the jets from an unidentified airline – 10 of the 737 Max 7 version of the plane, and 10 of the larger Max 10 jet that is still in development. The Max 10 is expected to hold between 188 and 204 passengers, or roughly one-third more than a 737 Max 7.
The company also announced Monday that it received an order for an additional 10 Max 8 planes from SunExpress, an airline jointly owned by Lufthansa and Turkey that specializes in travel between Europe and Turkey. The airline already had orders for 32 Max jets, and its new order exercises an option it had for additional jets.
The SunExpress purchase provides a vote of confidence for a plane model that has been grounded since March following the second of two fatal crashes that killed 346 people.
“We have a longstanding, strong and trustful relationship with Boeing and thus we decided to turn our option into an order,” says SunExpress CEO Jens Bischof. “We have full confidence that Boeing will deliver us a safe, reliable, and efficient aircraft.”
The orders are fairly modest, and for far fewer planes than a much larger order that rival Airbus (EADSF) announced at the same show. Airbus (EADSF) announced firm orders from Air Arabia for 120 of the A320 class of jets, the rival of the 737 Max.
Airbus also reported Tuesday it sold 20 long-range A321 planes to the leasing arm of General Electric (GE), and 10 of them to Flynas, a low-cost airline based in Saudi Arabia. And EasyJet announced it had exercised the rights to buy 12 more A320neo jets.
The list price of the 120 single-aisle jets Airbus sold to Air Arabia is $14 billion, while the 30 737 Max jets that Boeing sold have a list price of $3.5 billion.
Boeing also announced that Kazakhstan carrier Air Astana signed a letter of intent to buy 30 of the 737 Max jets for use at its new low-cost offering, FlyArystan.
“We believe that the Max will provide a solid platform for the growth of FlyArystan throughout our region, once the aircraft has successfully returned to service.”
A letter of intent is not a firm order. In June at the Paris Air Show, International Airlines Group, the owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and other European carriers, signed a letter of intent to buy 200 of the 737 Max jets, but that order has yet to result in any firm orders.
Still, as Boeing continues to struggle to get approval for the 737 Max to fly again and to start deliveries of the planes it has built since the grounding, a sales announcement of any kind qualifies as good news.
“It’s a small endorsement, but at this point any airline endorsement is useful for Boeing,” said Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst with the Teal Group.
But Boeing’s struggles at Dubai haven’t been limited to Airbus beating it soundly in the sale of single-aisle jets. Airbus also announced a $16 billion transaction to sell 50 A350 widebody jets to Dubai-based Emirates. That deal is worth $16 billion. And it sold an additional 12 of the widebody A330 jets to GE.
Boeing had trailed Airbus in the sale of single-aisle jets even before the 737 Max crashes, but it led in sales of more expensive, more profitable widebody jets. In Dubai its widebody sales were modest as well, as it sold only two 787 Dreamliners to Biman Bangladesh Airlines at a list price of $585 million for the two jets. In addition, EgyptAir announced it would lease two additional Dreamliners from leasing company AerCap.