Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

Boeing nails $3.6bn order for 30 737 Max jets at Dubai Airshow

Air Astana, national airline of Kazakhstan, orders the planes for its new low-cost unit FlyArystan

Air Astana signed a letter o f intent to buy 30 Boeing 737 Max jets for its low cost carrier. EPA
Air Astana signed a letter o f intent to buy 30 Boeing 737 Max jets for its low cost carrier. EPA

Air Astana, Kazakhstan's national airline, signed a letter of intent for 30 Boeing 737 Max jets on the third day of the Dubai Airshow for its low-cost unit FlyArystan, in a vote of confidence for the embattled jet.

The order will be finalised "in the coming months" and 737 Max 8 narrow-body is expected to enter service in late 2021, Alma Aliguzhinova, Air Astana's chief planning officer, said on Tuesday.

The operations will start "after what we expect would be over one year of successful operations of this aircraft," she said. "We ran the tender and Boeing won. We’re confident in Boeing's professionalism to overcome interim technical difficulties."

The deal marks a win for thegrounded 737 Max, building on an order for from Turkey's SunExpress on Monday, ahead of its expected return to commercial service in January. Demand for the best-selling jet slowed after it was grounded in March, following two deadly crashes.

The Max is the "right fit" for FlyArystan's mission, used mainly on domestic and some regional operations.

"It was a hard-fought competition and we're working on the final details," said Mr Stanley Deal, chief of Boeing's Commercial Planes.

The date for deliveries as soon as 2021, despite backlogs for jets, should not be interpreted as a softness in the programme but rather a way to accommodate a new customer, he said.

The airline could have 15 of the Max planes in direct purchase and the other 15 as operating leases, Ms Aliguzhinova said.

The low-cost airline was launched this May and has been "hugely successful" over the past six months, with 94 per cent seat load factor on its current two planes, she said.

"There are not so many people in Khazakhistan flying, very small percentage of population are flying, so we’re making flying affordable for people of khazakistan," she said. "There's definitely good demand and opportunity for this carrier, so this [Max] is the flagship aircraft for future of FlyArystan."

She said Boeing made the more compelling offer during the tender with support from engine maker CFM.

Air Astana operates 60 international and domestic routes from hubs in Almaty and Nur-Sultan with a fleet of 38 Boeing 767-300ER, 757-200, Airbus A320/A321 and Embraer E190/E2 aircraft.

Air Astana is a joint venture between the National Welfare Fund of Kazakhstan, Samruk-Kazyna, and BAE Systems with respective shares of 51 per cent and 49 per cent.

Updated: November 22, 2019 09:31 AM

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