Orders for Boeing's embattled 737 Max pick up at Dubai Air Show

Key Points
  • Kazakhstan carrier Air Astana announced Tuesday a letter of intent for 30 of the Max jets.
  • This comes on top of a reported firm order from an undisclosed buyer for 20 Max jets.
  • Tuesday's news follows an increased order for the Max 737 8 jets from Turkey-based airline SunExpress, which added a firm order for 10 of the planes, worth $1.2 billion at list prices.
An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at Boeing facilities at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, September 16, 2019.
Lindsey Wasson | Reuters

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Boeing managed to reach day three of the Dubai Air Show with bids for 50 of its beleaguered 737 Max jets, a day after getting a firm order for 10 of the jets from leisure airline SunExpress.

Kazakhstan carrier Air Astana announced Tuesday a letter of intent for 30 Max jets, which have been grounded globally since March following two devastating crashes in the span of five months that killed 346 people.

The plans, which come on top of a reported firm order from a mystery buyer for 20 of the same line of planes, represents a vote of confidence for a plane whose dangerous defects triggered the largest crisis in the aviation industry in years.

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Air Astana's commitment, valued at $3.6 billion, is not a firm order, and all of the deals of the last week remain subject to the aircraft receiving regulatory approval to return to service. The Kazakh airline is also a customer of Boeing's French rival Airbus, which has raked in massive deals this week and so far overshadowing those of the American plane-maker.

Boeing also said it booked a firm order for 20 Max jets — 10 of the smallest variant, the 7, and 10 of the largest, the Max 10, from an undisclosed airline.

Tuesday's news follows an increased order for the Max 737 8 jets from Turkey-based Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines joint venture carrier SunExpress, which added a firm order for 10 of the planes, worth $1.2 billion at list prices, in addition to a previous order of 32. A steep discount is typically negotiated by airlines.

The announcements mark a win for Boeing, but its total of $5.6 billion in orders so far pales in comparison to the tally of Airbus, which has so far inked at least $30 billion in orders at list prices. Europe's largest aerospace company on Monday won orders for 120 of its A320neo narrow-body jets from Air Arabia and 50 of its A350s from Dubai flagship carrier Emirates, valued at approximately $14 billion and $16 billion, respectively.

Airbus announced a further deal Tuesday, with a firm order from Saudi low-cost carrier Flynas for 10 of its A321 XLR jets, an ultra-long range version of the single aisle workhorse plane that the manufacturer is developing.That order comes in addition to a previous order of 80 A320neo jets in 2017 which was swapped for the larger A321 variants, bringing the total to 90 of the long-range A321 planes for the Saudi airline. The jet is Airbus' longest range single-aisle airliner.

Ahead of the confirmation of its Airbus order, Air Arabia was reportedly in talks with Boeing as recently as two weeks before the show.

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The Dubai Air Show, known for record-breaking mega deals, typically sees fierce competition for deals from rivals Airbus and Boeing, who each own approximately half of the market for large commercial airliners. But the American plane-maker's presence has been subdued thus far, weighed down by the crashes, ensuing safety concerns and the grounding of its fleet of roughly 400 jets around the world.

The aerospace giant has struggled this year, with new orders all but drying up as a result. British Airways parent, International Consolidated Airline Group, said during the Paris Air Show in June that it intends to buy 200 of the 737 Max planes, but that order has not been firmed up.

At Monday's market close, Boeing's stock price was down around 12% since the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines' 737 Max 8 in March.

-CNBC's Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.