Boeing for the second time in as many days saw a boost to its order book for the beleaguered 737 Max on Tuesday, as it signed a letter of intent with Kazakhstan’s Air Astana covering 30 Max 8s. Scheduled for first delivery in late 2021 to Air Astana’s FlyArystan low-cost operation, the contract anticipates a mix of direct purchases and operating leases.
The deal comes the day after Boeing exacted a measure of redemption for the narrowbody program by winning the first firm order for the Max since its grounding in March with a deal for 10 Max 8s from Turkey’s SunExpress. Meanwhile, another airline customer has just placed a firm order for 10 Max 7s and 10 Max 10s, but it wants to remain unidentified until it announces the deal at an event in its home market, according to an official familiar with the negotiations.
Appearing alongside Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal at the show Tuesday, Air Astana chief planning officer Alma Aliguzhinova explained that the airline would address a lack of aircraft availability from Boeing by taking its first airplanes on lease. However, Deal cautioned not to interpret the structure of the deal as indicative of “softness in the skyline” and that the company often works with new customers to address backlog barriers.
Aliguzhinova reported that she expected to finalize the deal in the “coming months.”
Launched this past May, FlyArystan flies a pair of Airbus A320s. Questioned on the reason for the migration from Airbus to Boeing, Aliguzhinova insisted that Airbus’s own delivery delays involving A320neos did not play into the decision.
“The nature of the operations of our LCC and our main carrier is so different that it prompted us to run a competition between the manufacturers,” she said. “This is the right aircraft for us and for the mission it’s going to fly, which is mostly domestic and some regional operations.”