Boeing has had a huge vote of confidence for its troubled 737 Max planes, with one of the world’s largest airline groups announcing it will buy 200 of the jets.
The $35 billion deal represents a huge shift for International Airlines Group, which owns Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and other European carriers and flies more than 113 million passengers a year.
IAG currently mostly uses rival Airbus’s A320 planes for its single-aisle fleet, although it does operate some Boeing wide-body jets.
“We’re very pleased to sign this letter of intent with Boeing and are certain that these aircraft will be a great addition to IAG’s short-haul fleet,” IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said.
“We have every confidence in Boeing and expect that the aircraft will make a successful return to service in the coming months, having received approval from the regulators.”
Thank you International Airlines Group for your trust and confidence in the 737 MAX and the people of Boeing: IAG Announces Intent to Buy 200 Boeing 737 MAX Airplanes. #PAS19
— Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) June 18, 2019
Boeing’s flagship 737 Max was grounded in March, following deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.
Chicago-based Boeing said last week it had orders for 4450 of the planes, but had largely stopped deliveries after the grounding. It delivered 30 Maxes last May, compared to 68 in May 2018.
The company has been working on a fix for the automatic safety feature that is the focus of crash investigations. As yet, there is no time frame for Max’s return to service.
The IAG order was announced at this week’s Paris Air Show, the world’s biggest display of aircraft.
Boeing chief executive Kevin McAllister said the company was honoured that IAG had placed its trust and confidence in the 737 Max and “ultimately, in the people of Boeing and our deep commitment to quality and safety above all else”.
“We look forward to building on our long-standing partnership with IAG for many years to come,” he said.
IAG has committed to buy Boeing’s newest long-haul model, the 777X, to complement its fleet of current-generation 777s and new 787 Dreamliners.
Mr Walsh has said the group would consider the 737 Max as part of diversifying its future fleet to spur competition.
IAG will fly a combination of the 737 Max 8, which seats up to 178 passengers in a two-class configuration, and the larger 737 Max 10, which can accommodate as many as 230 passengers. It has not revealed a specific split between the two Max models.