Boeing nears 737 MAX deal with Japan Airlines -sources

March 8 (Reuters) - Japan Airlines Co (JAL) (9201.T) is close to placing an order for more than 20 Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX airplanes as it renews its medium-haul fleet, industry sources said on Wednesday.

JAL confirmed it was involved in talks to buy new jets but declined further comment.

"We are still at the stage of negotiation, so we cannot provide details," a JAL spokesperson said when asked about an earlier Bloomberg report on the deal.

The order will likely be a combination of 737 MAX 8 jets and some of Boeing's larger 737 MAX 10 planes, the report said, adding the airline was also in talks with Airbus SE (AIR.PA).

Boeing declined comment on any commercial discussions. Airbus said it never comments on talks with customers.

A deal for JAL to buy Boeing's single-aisle MAX would be the second by one of Japan's top carriers following All Nippon Airways (ANA) (9202.T), in a national market traditionally dominated by Boeing.

The future of the MAX in Japan had been uncertain after a recent safety crisis and the pandemic, which delayed ANA's decision to finalize its own order by around two years.

Analysts say Boeing was stung when Airbus unexpectedly sold its A350 wide-body jet to JAL 10 years ago in the wake of a crisis over battery problems on the competing Boeing 787, for which Japan is both a major supplier and customer.

But although Airbus has made inroads for its single-aisle A320 at ANA's low-cost Peach unit, and JAL's Jetstar Japan flies leased A320s, ensuring a foothold for the MAX in the mainline fleet of the national carrier was seen as a priority for Boeing.

Global airlines association IATA says the domestic market in Japan has rebounded strongly since the pandemic, but outbound travel has been penalized by the weakening of the Japanese yen.

Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu in Tokyo, Shivani Tanna in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Mark Potter

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