Boeing Co. secured a win in Japan with an order from the nation’s flag carrier for 21 of its 737 Max aircraft, getting in ahead of rival Airbus SE, which was initially seen as the frontrunner.
The single-aisle jets will be delivered to Japan Airlines Co. and flying from 2026, the carrier and Boeing said in a joint statement Thursday. The order is worth about $1 billion, based on the calculated list price of $51.3 million for each aircraft by appraiser Avitas Inc.
The planes will replace JAL’s Boeing 737-800s, which make up the largest proportion of its fleet, the carrier’s President Yuji Akasaka said in the statement. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that JAL was leaning toward a deal with Boeing to replace its older fleet with newer models that have better fuel efficiency. Airbus’s A320neo had been considered.
“The 737 Max Series had a good track record and it was familiar to us since we’re already operating the 737-800,” Akasaka said at a briefing Thursday. “That’s why we chose it over other candidates, including the A320neo.”
“The integration of the new 737 Max will provide JAL with greater efficiency across its short-haul network,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Stan Deal said in the statement.
Japanese tourism is recovering from the pandemic after entry rules, which were tougher than most in Asia, were loosened late last year.
The International Civil Aviation Organization has projected that global air passenger demand will return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of March, and exceed 2019 figures by 3% by the end of the year.
JAL’s main competitor ANA Holdings Inc. signed a deal with Boeing last year to purchase as many as 20 of its Max 8 jets, with an option for 10 more.
The Max was grounded worldwide in 2019 following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed everyone on board both planes. Japan lifted its ban two years later following technical modifications and other safety steps.
“Early issues with the 737 Max have been identified and resolved,” Akasaka said. “It’s an incredibly safe plane and we’ve done everything possible to make sure of that.”
Boeing delivered 28 new aircraft to customers in February, below Airbus’s 46.