Ryanair has placed a firm order for 100 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline will take phased delivery of the planes over the next eight years.

Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said in London this morning that the deal would create opportunities for pilots across Europe, including Aer Lingus staff. Eighty five per cent of the cost of the deal will be guaranteed for Boeing by the US government.

The catalogue price for the deal is $9.1bn (€10.2bn), although Michael O'Leary will not say now much of a discount Boeing gave him on that deal.

The plane-maker described it as the largest single firm order for next generation 737s ever made. Ryanair also has an option to buy a further 50 aircraft over the next eight years.

For Boeing, in financial difficulties for the last quarter, 85% of the deal will be guaranteed by the US government. Michael O'Leary said the remaining 15% of the net purchase price was already on his balance sheet, but that Ryanair's debt would rise modestly.

The airline said it expects the new fleet would result in 800 jobs for pilots, 2,000 for cabin crew and 400 for engineers.

Yesterday, BMI, the airline formerly called British Midlands announced the launch of a new low cost service which will fly to Dublin from England's East Midlands Airport three times daily. The new venture, which is to be called BMI Baby, begins operation in March.