BTR; Blue Air; 737MAX 8; MAX-8; air to air; K66685

PARIS – Romanian low-cost carrier, Blue Air, announced an order for six 737 MAX jets (variant unspecified though likely 737 MAX 8) Tuesday at the Paris Air Show. In addition, Blue Air will also lease six 737 MAXs and six 737-800s from Air Lease Corp (ALC), adding to an existing order book of 3 737-800s.

Delivery of the MAX aircraft from Air Lease will begin in 2019 and continue until 2021 while the used 737-800s (formally with Pegasus Airlines) will be delivered beginning in May 2017 and be fully delivered by year’s end. Three of the six 737-800s from ALC are already operating for Blue Air.

“Our many years of partnership with Boeing and operating the 737 has resulted in unmatched operational reliability, a leading safety record and an increase in passenger numbers that has enabled Blue Air to grow into the leading airline airline in Romania,” said Gheorghe Racaru, general manager of Blue Air. “The 737 MAX will help shape the future of Blue Air, allowing us to fly to new, further destination whilst continuing to keep our fares low for our passengers due to the incredible efficiencies of the airplane.”

“We are delighted to announce Blue Air as Romania’s first 737 MAX customer,” said Monty Oliver, vice president, European Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The 737 MAX is ideally suited to Blue Air and the market it serves, increasing revenue potential all with improved operating efficiencies.”

Blue Air currently operates an all-Boeing fleet of 29 737 aircraft, including 17 737 Classic jets (2 737-300s, 9 737-400s, and 6 737-500s). It also operates 1 737-700 and 11 737-800s.

Founded in Bucharest in 2004, Blue Air has grown its operations across Eastern and Southern Europe in the decade since. Its business is mostly concentrated in its home country of Romania, and its largest base is located at Bucharest’s Henri Coanda International Airport, though it has bases in Romania, Italy, the United Kingdom and Cyprus.

In 2016, Blue Air became the largest airline in Romania by scheduled passengers flown, with its 3.6 million representing a tripling of volume since 2008. At Bucharest, it is technically the second largest carrier behind Eastern European ULCC powerhouse Wizz Air and comes in just ahead of Romanian flag carrier TAROM.

It also has a secondary hub at Turin Airport in Italy and tertiary hubs at several smaller Romanian airports, Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and Larnaca in Cyprus.

The growth of Wizz Air in recent years across Eastern and Central European hubs like Budapest, Bucharest, and Skopje (amongst many others) has sucked much of the oxygen out of the room for pretty much any carrier other than Ryanair (which dwarfs Wizz Air by itself).

Smaller niche players like CSeries launch customer airBaltic and Blue Air do appear to be finding some success, however (both carriers are profitable), which bodes well for competition in the region.