Boeing takes off with new 737 deal
BOEING will build a new version of its top selling Boeing 737 that squeezes in more seats, with budget airline Ryanair the launch customer.
The airline has committed to buy 100 737 MAX 200s valued at US$11 billion at current list prices, although the final price for the planes is likely to be different to that given the bulk order.
It has options to double that order as it expands its fleet to 520 in the next decade, capable of carrying 150 million passengers a year, up from 86 million a year at the moment.
The new Boeing plane competes against the latest models of the Airbus A320, popular with airlines in this area, but has more seats.
The 737 MAX 200 will hold up to 200 seats, 11 more than the biggest 737 at the moment, although Ryanair will have seats for 197 passengers.
Boeing says at 200 seats the plane can increase revenue potential and provide up to 20 per cent better fuel efficiency per seat than the most efficient single-aisle airplanes.
Ryanair chief financial officer Howard Millar said the use of thinner seats means passengers will get more legroom - more than 76cm - even though the spacing between rows shrinks.
He told Bloomberg the airline had sought to avoid "a lesser experience on new aircraft" and accusations of "cramming in more people".
Analysts say that the budget carrier - which has previously used its aggressive cost-cutting approach as a marketing tool - is trying to reposition itself and taking on established legacy carriers by competing on the same routes and flying to the big airports in Europe.
The announcement of the huge order pushed up Boeing's stock by 2.6 per cent to its highest level since February this year.
Boeing developed the 737 MAX 200 in response to the needs of the fast growing low-cost sector, which is forecasted to account for 35 per cent of single-aisle airline capacity by 2033.
The Seattle-based planemaker said the heart of the single-aisle market would remain at 160 seats.
Air New Zealand has been progressively moving out of 737s to Airbus A320s for domestic and shorthaul international flights and has 13 of the new model A320neos (new engine option) on order.
Low-cost carrier Jetstar runs an all-Airbus fleet for its single-aisle operations.
Based on the 737 MAX 8 airframe, the 737 MAX 200 can accommodate up to 200 seats by incorporating a mid-exit door increasing the regulatory exit limit.
The airframe is 2.2m longer than the A320neo.
The interior also features larger, pivoting overhead stowage bins that add to the openness of the cabin.
The bins give more passengers room to store carry-on roll-aboard baggage near their own seat.
Boeing also redesigned reading-light switches so passengers can find them more easily and avoid unwittingly pressing the attendant call button.
• The 737 was the first ever commercial plane to pass 10,000 orders.
• 737s fly 24,000 scheduled passenger flights a day.
• As of 2012, the 737 had flown more than 185 billion kilometres - that's equivalent to about 624 round trips from the earth to the sun.
• The global 737 family has carried more than 16.8 billion passengers.