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Sun 20 May 2018 11:41 AM

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India's Jet Airways planning follow-on deal for Boeing 737 Max

Jet Airways India chairman Naresh Goyal said he's "very happy" to have Etihad Airways as a shareholder

India's Jet Airways planning follow-on deal for Boeing 737 Max

Jet Airways India is closing in on a new order for Boeing Co.’s 737 Max single-aisle plane that could take its commitments for the model above 200 aircraft.

India’s biggest full-service airline is in talks over the purchase and may make an announcement in coming weeks, chairman Naresh Goyal said in an interview. He didn’t specify how many planes the company aims to buy, though Jet’s previous two orders for the model have been for 75 aircraft apiece.

While the existing contracts have been for the smallest Max 8 variant of Boeing’s re-engined workhorse, Jet has the ability to upscale to the Max 9 or 10 and the new deal will have the same flexibility, Goyal said in Manchester, England, after announcing his company’s first flights to the city.

Mumbai-based Jet is expanding its fleet as India’s leading carriers compete for traffic in the world’s fastest-growing major aviation market. SpiceJet Ltd. has ordered more than 200 narrow-body aircraft from Boeing, while market leader IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., is the biggest customer for Airbus SE’s rival A320neo plane.

Jet’s existing Max orders are due to commence delivery from Boeing in July after a month’s delay, with handovers running through 2023, according to Goyal, who founded Jet in the early 1990s.

787 question mark

The carrier also has 10 787-9 Dreamliner wide-body jetliners on order from Boeing but is not certain to take the aircraft as it evaluates its route and network requirements, the chairman said. Delivery of the planes has already been deferred.

Goyal said that an Indian government plan to privatise Air India is “a brave and very good decision” for the country, predicting that the process will ultimately prove successful, and didn’t rule out getting involved in the sale.

“We are looking at our own business,” he said. “But I am not saying that we will not look at Air India, I’ve never said that. Ultimately we will always see what is the best approach ahead of us, and for the country.”

The chairman said he’s “very happy” to have Etihad Airways as a shareholder even as the Abu Dhabi carrier unravels most of its other equity holdings following a failed expansion strategy. Jet has been one of the most successful investments for Etihad, which owns a 24 percent stake, he said.

Jet might get closer to Air France-KLM Group, with which it already has a revenue-sharing joint venture, Goyal said, adding that airlines generally are looking to move toward much closer relationships.

“I can’t say today, but the world is changing and you never know what happens,” he said. “Everyone is looking at every opportunity -- consolidation and one of the best partners if you can.”

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