Budget airline Ryanair on Thursday ordered 75 additional Boeing 737 Max jets with a catalogue value of $9 billion, throwing a commercial lifeline to the embattled U.S. planemaker after regulators lifted a 20-month safety ban.
The order from the Irish airline, Europe's biggest low-cost carrier and one of Boeing's most important customers, is the largest for the jet since 2018 before two fatal crashes led to its grounding. Boeing shares were up 5.2% on the news.
"This is the beginning of the fulfillment of a more robust order book," Boeing Chief Executive David Calhoun said at a signing event in Washington DC. "I've always had faith that the order book would begin to fill with the return of the industry."
Ryanair already has 135 of the 197-seat Max 200 on order, and expects to receive its first jet early next year and the final one by the end of 2024.
"The Boeing MAX is a fabulous aircraft," Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said.
Ryanair did not disclose the price it will pay, but traders say deals typically include discounts in excess of 50% of list prices.
Ryanair was expected to win an even bigger discount of well over two-thirds in return for a headline-grabbing relaunch of the Max that helps fill gaps left by cancellations, sources said.
Part of the discount was compensation for the 18-month delay to the first delivery of the Max, O'Leary said. He did not say whether a cash sum had also been paid.
The order could be a pivotal moment in efforts by Boeing to rehabilitate the Max, its fastest-selling model before it was grounded in March 2019 following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in which 346 people died.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that Ryanair was close to placing an order for up to 75 Boeing jets.
As regulators move to clear the aircraft for flight after revisions to cockpit software and pilot training, executives are hoping for several eye-catching Max deals that will help put the crisis behind it, sources have said.
The jet staged its first post-grounding flight with media on board on Wednesday, weeks before the first commercial passenger flight on Dec. 29.
Ryanair has a record of striking deals to lock in low costs when its bargaining power is highest, most famously by placing an order for 100 new 737s at rock-bottom prices in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
That deal laid the foundation for its transformation into one of Europe's dominant airlines.
On Thursday Ryanair said it would pass on any lower aircraft costs in lower fares.