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Boeing Co. is poised to win a jet order from Ryanair Holdings Plc valued at about $11 billion after agreeing to create a new version of the 737 Max model that squeezes in more seats, people familiar with the matter said.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest discount carrier, will buy 100 of the narrow-body Max planes that feature upgraded engines, said three people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. An announcement could come as soon as Sept. 8, one person said.
A Max order for Dublin-based Ryanair would cap more than a yearlong review in which Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary studied the potential fuel savings and operating costs. Prodded by Ryanair to offer a higher-capacity plane, Boeing said in July it would build a variant of its Max 8 that could carry 200 passengers instead of the usual 189.
Marc Birtel, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, declined to comment on the order. Aoife Van Wolvelaere, a spokeswoman for Ryanair at Edelman, said by e-mail that the airline “does not comment upon or engage in rumour or speculation.”
The deal would cement Boeing’s ties to Ryanair, which flies only the 737. The airline agreed to buy 175 current-generation 737-800s last year as part of its expansion to meet rising demand for short-haul flights.
Ryanair, competing with discounters such as EasyJet Plc, is revamping its network and seeking to shed its no-frills reputation through measures such as assigned seating, designed to appeal to business travelers. The company has added routes toward a goal of flying 110 million passengers by 2019, up from a projected 84.6 million this year.
The Max 8, the first of three redesigned 737 models, will be outfitted with new engines from a General Electric Co. joint venture and more aerodynamic wings. The plane lists for $106.9 million before the discounts that are customary in plane orders. Boeing hasn’t given a price for the higher-capacity model.
Boeing is targeting a commercial debut for the Max in 2017. The high-density version sought by Ryanair will share the same fuselage as the Max 8 and be 20 percent more efficient than current versions of the 737, Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing’s commercial unit, told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow in July.
Boeing plans to accommodate the higher load by squeezing passengers in tighter, shrinking the space between seat rows by about two inches (five centimeters) while adding an extra exit door behind the aircraft’s wing, Conner said.
Reuters reported earlier today that Ryanair was in advanced talks to buy Max jets.
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