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With Boeing 737 Max orders set for late arrival in Asia, will Airbus and China’s Comac benefit?

As aviation giant Boeing races to address defects plaguing its 737 model following a mid-air blowout in the US, expected delays in deliveries to its Asian clients could consolidate rival Airbus’ lead and open a window of opportunity for Chinese planemaker Comac, analysts said.

Following the blowout of the door plug, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that required all 737 Max 9 aircraft to undergo further inspection, a process that is still ongoing.

While Boeing had few orders of the 737 Max 9 series from Asia-Pacific carriers, the incident was sowing uncertainty over the deliveries of related versions such as the Max 8 series, which would likely have to go through more stringent tests in the coming weeks, according to Mayur Patel, head of Asia at OAG Aviation.

As of this year, there were some three dozen firms in the region operating 211 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, with most of them flying a version of the Max 8 series, he told This Week in Asia. Twenty-one of the operators were in Northeast Asia, while there were six in Southeast Asia, four in South Asia and three in the Southwest Pacific.

Airbus had a 55.4 per cent market share in the Asia-Pacific and Boeing had 31.6 per cent, according to Patel. “If you look at the current split, it’s very obvious that Airbus takes the lead,” he said.

Following the blowout, Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation grounded the country’s Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, but the airline passed mandatory inspections and was cleared to fly its three aircraft on January 19.

Lion Air has mid-cabin emergency exits on its aircraft as opposed to Alaska’s plug door which is towards the back door, Patel said.

United Airlines inspections on the 737 Max 9