A sales lull for the Max, idled globally since March, allows SpiceJet to acquire planes at a lower cost, Chairman Ajay Singh said in an interview with Bloomberg TV at the biennial event. He said the carrier is looking to set up a new hub in the Middle East and expand to eastern Europe.
Discussions are taking place and the size of the order hasn’t been determined, Singh said.
The Max, a global workhorse on shorter routes, has seen sales crippled by the crisis triggered by two deadly crashes. At the air show, Boeing executives have focused public comments around getting the plane flying again while mending fences with airline customers and suppliers.
A high-profile sale would be a morale-booster for the stricken program. At the Paris air show in June, Boeing announced a blockbuster deal with British Airways owner IAG SA for 200 Max jets. That helped the U.S. planemaker counter an onslaught of orders for Airbus SE’s rival 320-series narrow-body, including the just-introduced long-distance version, the 321 XLR.
Singh expects the Max to be recertified by the Federal Aviation Administration by the end of 2019, and said other regulators would soon follow the U.S., with commercial flights resuming worldwide in the first quarter of 2020. Bloomberg News reported earlier that SpiceJet was in talks with Boeing for Max jets.
SpiceJet is setting up a hub in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates to expand flights from India and connect with Eastern Europe, Singh said. He said long-term growth is intact in the Indian market, and the carrier will need more planes to support the traffic.
SpiceJet is an existing customer of Boeing for its single-aisle fleet. In January 2017, it notched its biggest-ever deal with an order for 100 Max jets, with options for 50 more planes.