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First African carrier to order Boeing 737 MAX

Johannesburg, 19 March 2014: South Africa’s private domestic airline operator – JSE-listed Comair Limited today announced an order for eight Boeing 737 MAX 8s, making Comair the first African airline operator to order the new 737 MAX.

The order has a current list-price value of $830 million and supports Comair’s long-term objective of investing in future technology to ensure continuous sustainability. The 737 MAX, which is the most technologically advanced 737 variation yet designed by Boeing, will go into production in 2017. The new craft builds on the attributes of the Boeing 737 family, retaining efficiency, economics, reliability and customer appeal that has made the 737 the most successful commercial aircraft in history. The 737 MAX has already amassed more than 1,800 orders worldwide since its development was announced in 2011.

Erik Venter, CEO of Comair says, “This R9-billion investment in Comair’s fleet upgrade is fundamental to its business strategy of consistently improving customer service and value, while ensuring a sustainable airline. Our decision to make this investment was not taken lightly and is a critical component in managing our exposure to the volatile fuel price and thus minimising the impact of the fuel price on airfares.”

The 737 MAX incorporates the latest technology CFM International LEAP-1B engines, as well as aerodynamic improvements such as new Advanced Technology winglets, to deliver a 14 percent fuel-efficiency improvement over today’s most  efficient single-aisle airplanes.

Over the last seven years Comair has reduced its fuel burn per seat by 28% as it continues to upgrade its fleet. This investment will further improve the fuel burn per seat and reduce the impact on the environment.

“CFM is committed to providing industry-leading performance and world class support to Comair and all of its airline partners,” says Cédric Goubet, executive vice president of CFM. “The LEAP-1B engine ensures double digit fuel efficiency improvement while providing the unmatched reliability of CFM engines.  This reliability will help provide Comair with both higher utilisation and lower operating costs. We are very excited to see our new engine entering service on the 737 MAX in Comair’s fleet, reinforcing our partnership with this very successful airline.”

Along with superior operating economics, the customer-preferred 737 Boeing Sky Interior will also come standard on the 737 MAX. Drawing from years of research inspired by the travel experience, the 737 Boeing Sky Interior features modern-sculpted sidewalls and appealing features that draw customer eyes to the airplane’s windows, giving customers a greater connection to the flying experience.

“Comair has grown over the past six decades by providing a product and service of consistent value, reliability and comfort,” says Van Rex Gallard, vice president of Africa, Latin America and Caribbean Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The unmatched operating economics of the 737 MAX make it the best airplane for Comair’s growth strategy. In addition, the 737 Sky Interior, combined with Comair’s excellent customer service, will provide an unmatched customer experience on the African continent.”

Comair currently operates an all-Boeing fleet of 25 Classic and Next-Generation 737s on its kulula.com and British Airways (operated by Comair) brands, and the order for the 737 MAX will support future fleet renewal.  The first of these eight 737 MAX aircraft ordered by Comair will be delivered in 2019 and the last in 2021.

Comair has already taken delivery of four aircraft from its current order for eight Boeing Next-Generation 737-800 aircraft, and the remaining four will be delivered in late 2015 and 2016.