Indonesia's Lion Air is reviewing airplane purchases from Boeing and has not ruled out canceling orders as relations worsen in a spat over responsibility for a 737 jetliner crash that killed 189 people in late October, sources told Reuters.
Group co-founder Rusdi Kirana is furious over what he sees as attempts by Boeing to deflect attention from recent design changes and blame Lion Air for the crash, while the airline faces scrutiny over its maintenance record and pilots' actions, said the people, who have knowledge of the matter.
Kirana is examining the possibility of canceling remaining orders of Boeing jets "from the next delivery," according to one of the sources who is familiar with his thinking. Another source close to the airline said it was looking at canceling orders.
Kirana, a former group CEO who now serves as Indonesia's ambassador to Malaysia, remains closely involved with Lion Air and hosts a monthly meeting in Kuala Lumpur with the heads of the group's airlines based in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, according to the second person and an industry source.
No final decision been made by Lion Air, but discussion over the fate of $22 billion of remaining orders highlights the stakes surrounding an investigation involving Boeing's fastest-ever selling jet, the 737 MAX, which entered service last year.
Lion Air has 190 Boeing jets worth $22 billion at list prices waiting to be delivered, on top of 197 already taken, making it one of the largest U.S. export customers.
Any request to cancel could be designed to put pressure on Boeing and may require lengthy negotiations. Many airlines defer orders, but industry sources say aerospace suppliers rarely allow much scope for unilateral cancellations.
Lion Air declined to comment. It was also not immediately clear how much of the airline is owned by Kirana.
A Boeing spokesman said: "We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, and are working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved. We are also supporting our valued customer through this very tough time."