- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

CHICAGO, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Low-cost carrier Ryanair ordered another 22 planes from Boeing Friday and optioned 78 more.

The Irish carrier has ordered 250 737-800s in the last year — more planes than any other airline. Half the orders are firm and the rest are options, the airline said.

The new planes, valued at $6 billion list price, are scheduled for delivery in 2004 and 2005. The Wall Street Journal reported Boeing gave Ryanair a deep discount on the order.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes executive Marlin Dailey said the order is the second for 737s from a low-cost carrier in the past two weeks. Australia's Virgin Blue announced Jan. 16 it was ordering 10 planes and taking options on 40 more.

Boeing describes its Next-Generation 737 as the "most technologically advanced airplane in the single-aisle market." The digitally designed craft has a new wing and more powerful engines, and the flight deck features liquid crystal flat panel displays.

Ryanair operates on a model similar to Southwest Airlines and the new order is expected to ratchet up competition with rival EasyJet, which is based in London and switched from Boeing aircraft as its exclusive supplier to Airbus last year.

Boeing released its fourth-quarter earnings Thursday, reflecting a continuing slump in U.S. aviation, which was offset by the military side of its operations. Fourth quarter net income was $590 million, or 73 cents a share, compared with $100 million, or 12 cents a share, a year earlier.

Commercial operations are expected to remain depressed through 2004, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Phil Condit said.

The results coincided with an announcement by Spain's Iberia Airlines that it was selecting Airbus over Boeing for its long-distance aircraft needs. In a statement, Boeing called the decision unfortunate and said the A340 is a "less capable" aircraft than the Boeing 777.

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