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Japan Airlines done deal, Ryanair next on radar: Boeing eyes a bumper 2023

JAL's narrow-body fleet is dominated by the Boeing 737-800, of which the airline currently owns 47 and leases an additional 17 aircraft

Japan Airlines has announced its plans of purchasing 21 brand new aircraft to restock its fleet of narrow-body passenger jets, as it placed its first-ever order for the Boeing 737 MAX.

Boeing won the contest against its European rival Airbus, which pitched its flagship A320neo narrow-body jet as per JAL’s requirements. The deal with Boeing is valued at least USD 2.5 billion at list pricing.

The JAL order now gives the Boeing 737 MAX a foothold with Japan’s premier airline as the American aviation giant attempts to challenge Airbus’ dominance in the narrow-body sector.

“Despite excellent orders, there haven’t been as many high-profile users, which has hindered the (737 MAX) programme. This is undoubtedly very helpful,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at AeroDynamic Advisories who specialises in aerospace, while interacting with Reuters.

Although JAL mainly uses Boeing aircraft, in 2013, it surprised the aviation community by purchasing Airbus’ A350 widebody passenger jet over Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which was having difficulty in fixing technical issues at the time.

The initial Airbus order aroused concerns about whether Boeing will continue dominating the Japanese market, even though Japan Airlines’ fleet of 48 Dreamliners dwarfs the carrier’s 11 A350s.

The 737 MAX crisis increased such worries, which caused All Nippon Airlines (ANA) to put off concluding a 20 MAX purchase initially announced in January 2019. In July 2022, ANA and Boeing completed their MAX agreement.

Nowadays, JAL’s narrow-body fleet is dominated by the Boeing 737-800, of which the airline currently owns 47 and leases an additional 17 aircraft.

But, Airbus has made headway in the Japanese narrow body market, where JAL’s Jetstar Japan and ANA’s low-cost Peach affiliate fly leased A320s.

JAL President Yuji Akasaka informed the media that his company intended to bring the new planes into its fleet in 2026.

The range and fuel efficiency of the 737 MAX will reduce carbon emissions by 15% compared to the planes they are replacing, Akasaka observed.

“I believe this is a very high potential aircraft,” the official told the media further.

Meanwhile, Ireland-based Ryanair has expressed its optimism about striking a major new aircraft order as it restarted talks with Boeing, its top boss said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said that there was a ‘deal to be done’ as negotiations between the Irish airline and Boeing was in “the early stages” for a new order of Boeing 737 jets.

“We are back talking to them, which I think is an indication there is some movement on pricing. I think there is a deal to be done,” O’Leary told the Financial Times, while adding that the new multibillion-dollar deal could be for the 737 Max 10 or for the smaller Max 8200.

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