Boeing announced a big order for its forthcoming 737 MAX jets from Panama’s Copa Airlines to coincide with the attendance of President Barack Obama at a political summit in Panama City.
The jetmaker booked the order for 61 MAXs earlier and listed it on its order website, but the airline customer was not identified until now.
An analysis of the order website shows that COPA at the same time canceled a previous order for five current model 737NGs, so the net new order is for 56 airplanes.
The net order is worth about $6.2 billion at list prices. However, based on market pricing data from aircraft valuation firm Avitas, the real value of the deal after standard discounts is about $2.9 billion.
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Obama and Panama President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez, joined by Copa CEO Pedro Heilbron and Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, celebrated the deal in a ceremony Friday as heads of state gathered for the seventh Summit of the Americas.
Copa will use the Boeing jets to replace existing airplanes and support planned . It will be the first airline in the region to operate the 737 MAX 9 on long-range South American routes, Boeing said in a statement.
The 737 MAX, featuring new fuel-efficient LEAP engines from CFM International, promises a 14 percent fuel-use improvement over today’s 737NG model.
The MAX, due to enter service in the second half of 2017, is in an intense battle for market share with the Airbus A320neo family, which is set to debut later this year.
Boeing now has 2,715 firm orders for the MAX, while Airbus has booked 3,678 firm orders for the neo.
The announcement comes as both Boeing and Obama look to Latin America to boost their fortunes.
Obama is seeking to reassert U.S. influence in Latin America and restore goodwill with many of the 35 nations represented at the summit, which in recent years has left the U.S. isolated over its policies toward Cuba.
The communist nation will attend the gathering for the first time, and Obama will have several opportunities to interact with Cuban President Raul Castro during the summit, beginning today when the heads of government are scheduled to attend an arrival ceremony, a ceremonial photo and a formal dinner.