Saudi Arabia’s flyadeal is terminating a prior order for Boeing’s 737 Max jet and switching to European rival Airbus, in the latest blow to the Chicago-based manufacturer as it seeks to return the beleaguered fleet to flight after two fatal crashes.
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The budget airline, which in December said it would purchase 50 Max jets, will instead purchase 50 Airbus A320neo narrow-body jets, a direct rival to Boeing’s update to the popular 737 airliner.
Deliveries for the nearly $6 billion deal will begin in 2021, flyadeal said in a statement, and will eventually lead to Airbus A320 being the exclusive jet for the carrier.
A Boeing spokesperson said the firm is focused on "safely returning the 737 Max to service and resuming deliveries."
"We wish the flyadeal team well as it builds out its operations," they said in an emailed statement.
While orders for Boeing’s Max jet have been stagnant since the fleet was grounded earlier this year following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the company notched a key order from British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA in June.
Boeing previously cut monthly production rates for the Max airliner as it works with the Federal Aviation Administration and global regulators to obtain approval for a software update that would allow the fleet to begin flying again.
The Department of Justice, which was reportedly probing the approval process for the Max, is now said to be investigating the certification for the 787 Dreamliner, according to the Wall Street Journal.