Ryanair said it would take delivery of the planes early next year.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is yet to give the Boeing 737 Max the go-ahead to return to service.
EASA is in charge of re-certification for EU member states, as well as the UK.
If Boeing wanted to appoint a new chief salesman, it should just call in Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.
The 737 Max, he said, was a wonderful aircraft. A game-changer. More efficient than older planes. More environmentally friendly. Passengers would love it.
Except he didn’t call it the 737 Max. He repeatedly referred to the “737 8200”.
A sly rebranding exercise? Not according to Mr O’Leary. The plane was brilliant, and whatever you called it, passengers would want to fly on it.
Boeing’s more world-weary Dave Calhoun also insisted there was no rebranding going on.
And yet… his company was once heartily proud of the Max, and liked to flaunt the new name at every opportunity. Today, he was eager to downplay it as just another run-of-the-mill member of the 737 family.
Boeing was forced to take the 737 Max out of service following two crashes within five months of each other, which together killed 346 people.
Its clearance to fly again comes after Boeing implemented a series of modifications including updating flight control software, revising crew procedures and rerouting internal wiring.
At a news conference in Washington to announce the deal, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary described the 737 Max as “a fabulous aircraft”.
Boeing’s chief executive, David Calhoun, said it was “the beginning of the fulfilment of a more robust order book”.
Neither side disclosed the exact price that Ryanair will pay for the planes, but the airline will benefit from what the firms described as a “modest” discount on the cost.
Mr Calhoun said Boeing did not expect to have to slash prices to bring back customers.
“We believe strongly in the recovery and therefore we will stay patient,” Mr Calhoun said. “We don’t feel a need to discount our way into the marketplace.”
News of the deal was greeted with dismay by Naoise Ryan, of Cork in Ireland, whose husband Mick Ryan died when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 – a 737 Max – crashed in March 2019.
“Ryanair’s purchase of the Max is an endorsement of Boeing’s disregard of safety and human life. Like Boeing, they are prepared to gamble with people’s lives in order to sell cheap flights on ‘bargain-binned’ planes,” she said.
“It is horrific that Boeing can once again profit from this dangerous plane while still hiding documents and have not been held to account for the deaths of 346 people. Boeing’s attitude and dismissiveness should give everyone pause before ever boarding a Max.”