Boeing has secured a third 737 MAX customer in Oceania with Fiji Airways ordering five 737 MAX 8s for first delivery in 2018.
The Fijian flag carrier said in a statement on Wednesday the 737 MAX 8 would “replace its existing narrow-body fleet”. Currently, Fiji Airways has five 737s in its fleet, comprising one 737-700 and four 737-800s, that are used on short- and medium-haul routes to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Fiji Airways chief executive Andre Viljoen said the selection of the new generation Boeing narrowbodies came after an “extremely exhaustive procurement and selection process”.
Further, Viljoen said the aircraft would be delivered via a 12-year sale and leaseback financing arrangement as part of a package deal with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), Boeing and engine manufacturer CFM International.
“This is a major capital decision that had to be done correctly so we followed a rigorous, thorough and transparent process to find the right solution,” Viljoen said in a statement.
“As a consequence of the fierce competition between the rival bidders and the extensive process followed by Fiji Airways, we have achieved a ground-breaking package deal that represents excellent value for our shareholders, customers and stakeholders.”
Fiji Airways joins Virgin Australia and Air Niugini from the region as a MAX customer.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes senior vice-president for Asia Pacific & India sales Dinesh Keskar said: “Boeing is honoured that Fiji Airways has selected the 737 MAX for its fleet renewal plan and we look forward to welcoming Fiji Airways as our newest 737 MAX customer.”
“The 737 MAX, with its superior economics and capability, is the ideal airplane for Fiji Airways, allowing them to expand into new markets throughout Oceania and Southeast Asia.”
Viljoen said the MAX’s operating economics and efficiency would assist the airline in securing a four-star rating from Skytrax.
“Our team will now work on the cabin designs and fit-outs to Fiji Airways specifications,” Viljoen said.
“With 170 seats, we will continue with our existing two-class configuration (business and economy) and be able to offer an extremely competitive short- and medium-haul product.”
The 737 MAX program, which is currently in the flight test phase, has booked 3,339 orders through October 2016, according to the Boeing website. The figure does not include the Fiji Airways order, which will be added to the total once finalised.
Boeing said in May 2016 first delivery was forecast to take place in the first half of 2017.
The MAX competes with the Airbus A320neo Family, which has been flying with a number of airlines since January 2016. The Airbus website shows it has received 4,760 orders for the neo.
Qantas is expected to run a competition between the 737 MAX and A320neo at some future point for the replacement of its existing 737-800s.