Dublin-based aircraft leasing giant Avolon is in talks with Boeing regarding compensation for delayed deliveries of 737 Max jets, but chief commercial officer and president John Higgins has insisted legal action would be a "last resort".
He told the Irish Independent that Avolon - Boeing's fourth-biggest customer - could also place an additional order for aircraft with the manufacturer.
"If we can get more value through directing the compensation into the price of our airplanes and the profile of the order book, we'll do that," he said.
"It's a good position to be in because we're negotiating as to what we think is the best outcome, not negotiating because we feel constrained."
He declined to say how much a compensation deal could be worth to Avolon, which yesterday reported record profits of $717m (€657m) for 2019 on lease revenue of $2.61bn. The world's third-largest aircraft lessor has an owned, managed and on-order fleet of 925 aircraft.
Elsewhere, Mr Higgins said that the coronavirus will probably have a "pretty severe economic impact" on China, and that the picture is "pretty stark".
"Two thirds of the [aircraft] fleet in China is grounded at the moment," he highlighted.
Avolon, whose CEO is Domhnal Slattery, ordered a total of 148 Max jets, with a list price of about $18bn, but big buyers usually secure significant discounts. Avolon received nine of those jets before the Max was grounded around the world almost a year ago following two fatal crashes.
"Boeing's preference is to deal with compensation through discounts, ideally on incremental business, or discounts on future delivery prices," said Mr Higgins.
"Some airlines are very focused on wanting immediate cash compensation. We probably sit in the middle of that spectrum. We have an open mind. We have plenty of liquidity in the business. We're not under any strain to seek cash compensation from Boeing. We're having the conversations and the conversations include a number of things."
He added: "We've got pretty robust and water-tight agreements and contracts. The fact that we're such a significant customer of Boeing means that we certainly hope that all of that gets resolved through normal commercial dialogue."
Mr Higgins said that for Avolon to litigate against Boeing, "something would have had to go wrong in our very long-standing and deep relationship".
In December, a Dublin-based lessor, Timaero, sued Boeing for more than $740m for delayed Max deliveries.
Of the 139 Max jets Avolon still has to receive, 24 were due to have been delivered last year. They are part of the 450 Max jets that have been built by Boeing but not delivered and which are now in storage. Mr Higgins said Avolon is assuming that almost all those 24 aircraft will be delivered this year, based on Boeing's guidance.
Avolon had expected to receive about 19 more Max jets this year.
"We believe that the Max will return to service in 2020," Mr Higgins said. "When that airplane comes back to service, it will be the most scrutinised airplane from a safety perspective in the history of aviation. As a logistical matter, the task facing Boeing to get the airplane back flying is task number one, but they also have to restart production. That is a huge industrial logistical challenge."