Saudi Arabian budget carrier Flyadeal reversed a commitment to buy as many as 50 Boeing Co. 737 Max jets, becoming the first airline to officially drop the plane since its grounding following two deadly crashes.
Flyadeal will operate an entirely Airbus fleet, the company said Sunday in a statement, buying as many as 50 A320neo-family planes from Boeing's European rival.
The Airbus order was booked last month at the Paris Air Show by the discounter's parent, Saudi Arabian Airlines. That announcement had sparked speculation about whether the planes would be allocated to Flyadeal, which had said in December it would spend up to $5.9 billion on Boeing Max jets.
"We understand that Flyadeal will not finalize its commitment to the 737 Max at this time given the airline's schedule requirements," Boeing said in an e-mail. "We wish the Flyadeal team well and hope we can support their fleet and operational needs in the future."
Flyadeal will take delivery starting in 2021 of 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft, with an option for a further 20 planes from the same family of single-aisle jets.
The decision marks a commercial setback for Boeing, which is under pressure to prove the Max is safe and get it flying again after two disasters five months apart killed a combined 346 people. The narrow-body workhorse has been grounded globally since March.
The uncertainty surrounding the return of the Max to the skies has prompted carriers to amend aircraft orders. Virgin Australia has pushed back delivery of its first 737 Max jets by almost two years. PT Garuda Indonesia and VietJet Aviation are among the carriers that have also weighed changes in the aftermath of the fatal crashes.
Boeing won Flyadeal as a customer in December when the airline committed to buying 30 737 Max aircraft with an option for another 20. The deal, while subject to final terms and conditions, was considered a major victory for Boeing at the time, since Flyadeal operated an Airbus fleet.
The airline began to waver following the March crash.