FARNBOROUGH, England - Boeing secured a revived order for 25 of its 737 MAX 10 airliners from Qatar Airways on Thursday, as the return of Britain's Farnborough Airshow this week offered hope for the largest version of the planemaker’s troubled best-seller.
Two fatal 737 MAX crashes, an almost two-year worldwide grounding of the plane, and then the global pandemic have left the aviation industry reeling, with rebounding demand now stretching airlines, airports and parts supply.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker signed the MAX deal in front of reporters at a ceremony delayed by nail-biting last-minute negotiations.
The order, worth $3.4 billion at list prices, capped a largely one-sided show dominated by Boeing's efforts to shore up the MAX 10, whose future lies partly in the hands of regulators and Congress.
Even so, analysts said the world's joint-largest aerospace event, which alternates with the biennnial Paris Airshow, was muted this year, with only patchy orders compared with previous events and only the freak hot weather approaching past records.
Industrial worries stood out more than orders.
"Farnborough was a bit flat, but that is hardly surprising in a context of inflation and recession," said aviation adviser Bertrand Grabowski.
"Most airlines and lessors are being cautious. For narrowbody aircraft Airbus is sold out until 2028 and Boeing until 2026, by which time an aircraft could be 30% more expensive or more after adjusting for escalation clauses," he added, referring to inflation adjustments in aircraft purchase contracts.
A preliminary version of Qatar's MAX order was signed in Washington in January, but later lapsed, according to the airline. Reuters had reported on Wednesday that the Gulf carrier may revive the MAX 10 deal at this week's air show.
Boeing faces a December deadline to get the largest version of the MAX certified, without which it would need to comply with a requirement for an electronic warning system that is different from other variants, or else seek a Congressional waiver.
Farnborough saw Boeing dominate the stage with orders and re-announcements, suggesting renegotiation of earlier deals following the grounding delays, as it recovers from a slew of regulatory, industrial and financial problems.
After winning a key Delta Air Lines order for 100 MAX 10 at the outset of the show, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Stan Deal said the MAX had been "rebooted".
Sales chief Ihssane Mounir, said by one airline executive to be on a "war footing" to rekindle momentum, declined to be drawn on whether Boeing's three-year confidence crisis was over.
"It's a journey; I don't think any of us will say there is a point in time where we turned the corner," he said.
Boeing reported some 167 firm orders, of which 12 had already been on its order book with only the name undisclosed.
Analysts said Airbus, which for years took the spotlight as it fought for an equal share of the jet market, was under less pressure as it is sold out for the next 5-6 years.
It secured an order for 12 A220s from Delta and signed a previously announced deal for 56 jets from British low-cost carrier easyJet after airline shareholders approved it.
However, a planned order for some 50 A220 planes from Jet Airways faced last-minute obstacles and a decision by Malaysia Airlines to upgrade a fleet of A330 jets to the fuel-saving A330neo may need final approval, industry sources said.
Airbus sales chief Christian Scherer played down the importance of air shows.
Boeing, meanwhile, said it had received a commitment from Luxembourg operator Cargolux to select the freighter version of its large 777X, with details to be settled in coming weeks.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher Editing by Mark Potter)