Low-cost Saudi Arabian carrier Flyadeal has announced it will purchase 30 Airbus A320NEO aircraft after cancelling an order for the troubled Boeing 737 Max.

The news comes as regulators continue to test a software update for the Max, which was involved in two deadly crashes – one with Lion Air in October and another with Ethiopian Airlines in March.

Flyadeal, a sister company to the state-controlled Saudia Airlines, says the order – which includes the option to buy an additional 20 aircraft – will see it operate an all-Airbus A320 fleet in the future, with deliveries due to begin in 2021.

The airline had reportedly been due to purchase 30 737 Max aircraft with the option to buy 20 more, but Boeing said Flyadeal had cancelled the provisional order due to “schedule requirements”, according to the BBC.

The Boeing deal was worth US$5.9 billion at list price.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation instead signed an order for 100 aircraft with Airbus at last month’s Paris Air Show.

Boeing has faced hardships in returning the 737 Max, which has been grounded since March, to service. US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Dan Elwell has said he can’t put a timeline on approving a software update developed by the manufacturer to address an issue with the aircraft’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – something highlighted by investigators as a contributing factor to both accidents.

In June, the FAA said it had found an issue with the update that would need to be addressed by Boeing before a grounding order on the Max could be lifted.

Earlier in the month, Boeing issued a warning to its airline clients about a potential fault with a third party-manufactured part on the wing of all 737s, including the Max. It is working with carriers to replace the part.

American Airlines has cancelled hundreds of flights until September to mitigate the impact of the 737 Max grounding.

Travel buyers have expressed concern about the aircraft’s return to service, with two-thirds believing their travellers will change plans to avoid flights operated by the Max.

Boeing took a financial hit from the grounding, reporting a 21 per cent drop in earnings for the first quarter of 2019. It has dialled back production of the 737 Max to deal with a backlog of deliveries.

The manufacturer is facing a lawsuit from the family of a British UN worker who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Boeing has also pledged $100 million to help families affected by the two accidents.

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