Budget carrier orders 100 Boeing 737s, options on 50 more in eight-year deal

Thursday, January 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ Ryanair, the Irish-based budget carrier, will buy 100 Boeing 737-800 aircraft in the next eight years and has taken options on 50 more planes, the airline and the manufacturer announced Thursday.

Terms of the deal, described as the largest-ever order for the popular 737, were not announced. Ryanair said the ``catalogue value'' of the deal was $9.1 billion, but said Boeing's offer was ``exceptionally competitive.''

The first deliveries are expected this year, the companies said.

The airline's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, said the deal ``will allow Ryanair and Boeing to revolutionize short-haul travel all over Europe in the same way that Southwest and Boeing have in the United States.''

Ryanair projects that it will carry more than 10 million passengers in the year ending March 31, making it the seventh-largest international scheduled airline in Europe.

Ryanair, which serves 12 countries on 64 routes, will operate a fleet of 44 Boeing 737s this summer. The new planes will replace the carrier's existing 737-200 fleet and expand its capacity toward a target of 40 million passengers per year.

Ryanair and other budget carriers have reported continued strong sales, in contrast to the depressed fortunes of trans-Atlantic airlines since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Boeing announced earlier this month that it had sold 312 commercial jets in 2001, about half the total of the previous year. Significantly, Boeing's order book for the year was smaller than the preliminary total of 352 announced by its European rival, Airbus.

The twin-engine 737 was Boeing's best seller, with 188 new orders and just three orders canceled or changed. Boeing had 30 orders in 2001 for its widebody 777 and 16 orders for its 747 jumbo jet.

``This is a validation of the 737 as the aircraft of choice for low-fare airlines,'' Tony Bright, a sales executive vice president at Boeing, said of the Ryanair deal.