The national airline of Indonesia told Boeing Co that it wants to cancel an order for 49 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, saying passengers have lost confidence in the aircraft following two deadly crashes, one in Indonesia last October, according to news reports on Friday.
The move makes the carrier Garuda Indonesia the first airline to publicly confirm plans to cancel an order for the 737 MAX. Garuda ordered for 50 MAX jets in 2014 and has taken delivery of one, the airline said.
The 737 MAX jets, Boeing's most popular plane, were grounded worldwide world-wide this month following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines that killed 157 passengers and crew.
Garuda CEO I Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra told The Wall Street Journal that the airline sent a letter to Kevin McAllister, head of Boeing's commercial plane division, "to say that we want to cancel".
The letter was sent March 14, company spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said. He said the decision to cancel is in line with the desires of consumers who have lost confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX 8.
Rosan said that the airline was awaiting a response from Boeing. He said Boeing representatives were planning to meet with Garuda in Jakarta on March 28 "for further discussion''.
"The discussion won't be easy," he told The Washington Post.
Garuda Indonesia ordered 50 of the aircraft, Rosan said, and one has been delivered but was grounded after the Ethiopian Airlines crash last October. Garuda is talking to Boeing about whether or not to return that plane, the spokesman told Agence France-Presse
A new MAX jet flown by Lion Air, Indonesia's largest airline by fleet size, crashed shortly after takeoff when pilots struggled with the plane's automated anti-stall system. All 189 people aboard were killed.
The cause of the crashes has not been determined yet, but investigators have said that both crashes have similarities.
Randy Tinseth, Boeing's commercial plane marketing vice-president, on Thursday defended the MAX jet's design and production processes, saying he had great confidence in the 737 MAX.
He also said at an investors conference in London that Boeing expected a software fix for the jet's stall-prevention system to be approved by US regulators in weeks.
Garuda had already received one of the 737 MAX 8 planes, part of the 50-plane order worth $4.9 billion at list prices when it was announced in 2014.
Garuda is also talking to Boeing about whether or not to return the plane it has received, the spokesman told Agence France Press.