The biggest civil aviation deals in the last year

Noah Bovenizer highlights some of the biggest deals in the aviation industry announced throughout 2023.

Alaska Airline’s acquisition of Hawaiian Airlines was one of the biggest deals of the year. Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

From record aircraft orders to landmark mergers and significant investment into the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), the aviation industry received billions of dollars of investment last year as it continues to recover from the damage of the pandemic shutdowns. 

We take a look back at some of the biggest and most impactful deals to take place in the aviation industry across 2023, including the largest commercial aircraft order in history and a game-changing acquisition for the US aviation sector. 

Lufthansa goes for minority stake in ITA

In a deal that continued evolving throughout the year, Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa first entered its bid to acquire a minority stake in Italian airline ITA Airways at the beginning of the year.

The carrier initially placed a joint bid with shipping firm MSC for the ITA deal but was left to pursue it solo after MSC dropped out from the race in November last year. 

The agreement saw Lufthansa buy a 41% stake in the company in a deal worth €325m ($356.8m) which includes an option to acquire the remaining shares at a later date.

Air India signs $70bn in aircraft orders with Boeing and Airbus

Air India further cemented its position as one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world with this order in February, which saw it sign an agreement to acquire 470 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing with two orders worth $70bn.

The deal, which was later finalised at the Paris Air Show, was part of the airline’s desire to expand on both its domestic and international offerings, with a mix of single-aisle and widebody aircraft.

The company ordered 250 aircraft from France’s Airbus and 220 from US aerospace firm Boeing. Under the deal with Airbus, the carrier will acquire 140 A320neo and 70 A321neo single-aisle aircraft, as well as 34 A350-1000 jets. The airline also plans to procure six A350-900 wide-body jets from Airbus.

Air India will purchase 190 of Boeing‘s 737 MAX aircraft, as well as 20 787 Dreamliners and ten 777X aircraft. The agreement between Air India and Boeing also includes options for 50 additional 737 MAXs and 20 787-9s aircraft.

Hawaiian Airlines agrees to buy 50 million gallons of SAF from Gevo

One of many airlines to sign multi-year agreements on the use of SAF in 2023, Hawaiian’s deal with in-development biofuel company Gevo was one of the biggest, despite not being expected to come into effect until 2029.

The deal will last five years with the supply of 50m gallons of SAF and is part of the airline’s target of achieving net zero across its operations by 2050, in line with industry standards. The airline will remain in the skies in 2024, despite being acquired by fellow West Coast carrier Alaska.

The SAF will be made from residual starch of inedible field corn, which will be grown through regenerative farming practices. It will be supplied from a Gevo facility that it intends to build in the Midwestern US region.

Ryanair signs its largest-ever purchase for 300 aircraft with Boeing

The low-budget airline continued its significant expansion and modernisation plans with this deal, which was the largest in its history, acquiring up to 300 737 MAX 10 aircraft from Boeing.

The $40bn deal saw Irish airline Ryanair order 150 of the aircraft, with the option to order 150 more, as it sought to replace ageing planes and build on strong post-pandemic travel demands.

Ryanair’s purchase is seen as a way for the company to widen the cost gap with other European airlines due to the increased number of seats in the Boeing 737 Max jets over the 737-NGs. 

Airbus signs seven orders during Paris Air Show

While both Airbus and Boeing celebrated successful showings at the Paris Air Show, it was the French manufacturer that clinched one of the aviation industry’s biggest deals ever with Indigo’s order for 500 jets, the largest commercial aircraft order in history.

The deals didn’t stop there for Airbus either, with the company signing and finalising a range of other deals for a variety of aircraft with airlines from around the world.

Saudi Arabia’s flynas firmed up an order for 30 A320neo aircraft. The purchase joins an existing Airbus backlog for flynas, with its total order taken up to 120 A320neos including 10 A321XLRs. 

Already the largest airline in Oceania by a significant distance, Qantas expanded its fleet even further with an order for nine A220-300s, first announced in February but finalised this week. 

Boeing signs seven orders during Paris Air Show

While the previously mentioned order from Air India was Boeing’s largest at the Paris Air Show, the US manufacturer also welcomed a number of other deals with international airlines and a leasing company. 

Another relatively large order for Boeing came not from an airline but from leasing company Avolon, which ordered 40 of the 737 MAX jets, specifically the 737-8. 

While Boeing will be happy with the two larger purchases by Air India and Avolon, the manufacturer was also able to pick up several smaller orders, including one from Air Algérie for eight of the 737 MAX jets, a deal with China Airlines for eight 787-9 Dreamliners, and an order from Luxembourgeoise airline Luxair for four Boeing 737-7s.

Boeing’s total orders from across the air show added up to 356 orders to its backlog with a specific focus on its 737 MAX family of aircraft as well as the 787 Dreamliner group of planes. 

NetJets signs a record order for 1,500 jets over 15 years with Textron

The deal featuring the largest amount of aircraft on this list, NetJets' 15-year agreement with manufacturer Textron Aviation will see the historic private jet company have the option to acquire up to 1,500 Cessna business aircraft.

Beginning in 2025, the order includes NetJets adding new Cessna Citation Ascend, Cessna Latitude, and Citation Longitude aircraft to its fleet, adding to the 800 aircraft already delivered by Textron over the last eight years.

During the last eight years, NetJets has taken delivery of over 800 aircraft from Textron Aviation, which includes the execution of over 300 options on Citation Latitudes and Longitudes.

DHL Express signs seven-year contract for 668 million litres of SAF with World Energy

Another fuel-focused deal, DHL Express’ seven-year contract with SAF producer World Energy is believed to be the largest and longest of its type in the world.

The agreement will see the supply of 668 million litres of SAF through the use of SAF certificates as part of the logistics company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

DHL estimates that it will save roughly 1.7 million tonnes of CO₂ across the aviation fuel lifetime. The arrangement builds on World Energy’s prior long-term SAF collaborations, including a purchase agreement with Microsoft that oversees the displacement of approximately 43.7 million gallons of conventional jet fuel with SAF.

Ferrovial sells $3bn stake in Heathrow Airport

In one of the biggest airport deals in 2023, Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial sold its significant stake in one of the world’s busiest airports, Heathrow, in two deals worth over $3bn to Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and French private equity group Ardian.

PIF’s involvement in the deal was particularly notable due to the Kingdom’s wide-ranging efforts to expand its presence in the aviation industry, including in the infrastructure of other countries such as the UK.

Heathrow is not the PIF’s first transport investment. It currently holds stakes in ride-hailing app Uber, the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO), The Helicopter Company, and Riyadh Air.

Alaska Airlines acquires Hawaiian for $1.9bn

While JetBlue’s ongoing issues over its acquisition of Spirit Airlines were the focus of much attention throughout the year, Alaska Airlines' announcement in the final month of 2023 that it would look to acquire Hawaiian Airlines could be another game changer for the US aviation industry.

While it is expected to face scrutiny from the country’s Department of Justice, the $1.9bn deal could see Alaska take significant control of the aviation market in Hawai’i, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

The airline is paying $18-a-share and will gain more than 50% control of the aviation market in Hawai’i with the acquisition of the almost 100-year-old airline. Alaska highlighted that only 12 of the 1,400 flights currently operated by the two airlines overlapped, hinting that traffic will not be cut.