Dubai: Even as Boeing’s 737 Max jets remain grounded for the eighth month in a row, the US plane manufacturer bagged two orders for the model at the Dubai Air Show this week.
The orders are worth a total of $4.8 billion (Dh17.6 billion), and were made by Turkey’s SunExpress and Kazakhstan-based Air Astana on the second and third days of the Air Show.
They highlight the continued support for Boeing by some airlines even as the company faces scrutiny for its handling of the 737 Max issues.
SunExpress’ deal was for 10 aircraft, as the carrier exercised options it had made earlier. It will use the aircraft to expand its fleet and replace some older planes, the airline said as it threw its support behind Boeing, adding it has a “long standing, strong, and trustful relationship” with it.
“We stand behind our strategic decision to phase the 737 Max into our fleet for all of its economic and ecological advantages, mid- and long-term,” said Jens Bischof, chief executive officer of SunExpress.
“We have full confidence that Boeing will deliver a safe, reliable, and efficient aircraft. However, it goes without saying that this requires the undisputed airworthiness of the model, granted by all relevant authorities.”
Similarly, Air Astana, which signed a letter of intent to order 30 of 737 Max aircraft worth $3.6 billion, expressed strong support for Boeing. Peter Foster, president and chief executive officer of Air Astana, said he believes the Max will provide “a solid platform” for the carrier’s growth, once the model is returned to service.
“We believe the efficiency and reliability built into the 737 Max will be a great fit for FlyArystan (the carrier’s low-cost arm),” he said.
Still, it wasn’t all smooth for Boeing at the Air Show.
Competitor Airbus won orders worth $30 billion from two UAE-based carriers (Emirates and Air Arabia) on the second day of the show alone.
Boeing also continues to face pressure from carriers who own its 737 Max aircraft. The manufacturer said it will be in talks during this week with its customers on the Max, among other topics, as it focuses on “safety and partnerships.”
At just about every opportunity, Boeing executives at the Air Show expressed their empathy and condolences to the families of the victims who died on two 737 Max aircraft that crashed.
They said they are still working with regulators on the Max’s safety, and hope to “re-earn [the] trust” of their customers.
In the UAE, flydubai is the sole operator of the 737 Max, and has seen a “significant impact” already from their grounding. The budget carrier reported Dh196.7 million in losses in the first half of 2019 as it reduced operations due to the grounding of 13 aircraft, and its chairman said that impact on financials is expected to continue.
Boeing’s 737 Max planes have been grounded across the globe since March 2019 after two fatal accidents involving the model killed nearly 350 people on-board in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Boeing has said that it does not have a timeline for when the model will be allowed to fly again.