ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA — Boeing has emerged victorious in Japan, securing an order from the country's national carrier for 21 of its 737 MAX aircraft.

The order comes as a surprise, as initial reports suggested that rival Airbus was the frontrunner. The single-aisle planes will be delivered to Japan Airlines Co. and are scheduled to begin flying in 2026, according to a joint statement by the carrier and Boeing released on Thursday. The value of the order is estimated to be around $1 billion, based on the listed price of $51.3 million per aircraft.

According to a statement by Japan Airlines' President, Yuji Akasaka, the newly ordered 21 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be used to replace the carrier's current fleet of Boeing 737-800s, which make up the majority of its planes.

"The 737 MAX Series had a good track record, and it was familiar to us since we're already operating the 737-800," Akasaka said at a briefing Thursday.

"That's why we chose it over other candidates, including the A320neo," he added.

JAL's main competitor, All Nippon Airways (ANA), signed a contract with Boeing in 2020 to acquire up to 20 of its MAX 8 jets, with an additional option to purchase ten more. This was a significant move for ANA, as the 737 MAX had been grounded globally in 2019 after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that resulted in the loss of all passengers on board.

Following technical modifications and additional safety measures, Japan lifted its ban on the aircraft two years later.