Six years ago Rusdi Kirana was eating a burger with his wife sitting on the grass overlooking the Farnborough runway. He was at the show looking to acquire his first aircraft for Indonesian start-up carrier Lion Air.
The contrast with this year could not be more stark: yesterday Kirana was having lunch with Boeing chief Alan Mulally in the manufacturer's prime site chalet having just exercised options to buy another 30 737-900ERs. Valued at over $2.2 billion at list prices, the 30 737s doubles the number Lion Air will acquire, with first deliveries starting in April 2007.
And Kirana, a travel agent who founded the low-cost carrier with an $850,000 investment with his brother, intends to order plenty more. "When I came here to order Boeing aircraft I said to Alan that you are going to make me a billionaire. I am going to have a big profit with your 737s."
Kirana told Mulally that he intends to use that profit to become a 787 customer. The aim is to take its first 787, which would have to be leased, by 2010, he said.
Kirana has just finished a round of discussions with European and US banks about raising the finance for its new orders. With no debt and a profitable operation, although the privately held carrier releases no financial figures, Lion Air is seen as an attractive investment, he said.
Lion Air has grown rapidly to become the country's largest domestic carrier with a market share of 32% and currently operates a fleet of 23 737 Classics and MD-80s, said Kirana.