Never let it be said that I lack a keen understanding of the obvious.

Two weeks ago, I made the unsurprising observation that if Boeing (NYSE: BA) was planning to accelerate production of 737 airplanes, chances were good that the company thought it had some buyers lined up to pay for 'em. At the time, I suggested several potential candidates for the position of buyer: Major domestic users of the 737 such as AMR (NYSE: AMR), Delta (NYSE: DAL), and Southwest (NYSE: LUV) have been boasting of a rebounding industry and could well be looking to expand their fleet. Or perhaps we were looking at even bigger buyers abroad.

Ireland's Ryanair (Nasdaq: RYAAY), as I noted, was still deep in negotiations for a planned 200-plane expansion. Meanwhile, the huge win over Airbus that Boeing booked in Russia earlier this month had also laid the tarmac for a similar sale to Russia's flagship carrier, Aeroflot. So when the news finally broke, who handed Boeing its next big sale?

None of the above
Turns out, the company that will be buying Boeing 737s, and sending follow-on revenue through to engine makers General Electric (NYSE: GE) and United Technologies (NYSE: UTX), is in fact Air China. This morning, we learned that AC will purchase 20 Boeing 737-800s, with deliveries expected to run from 2013 through 2015. (Years conveniently located on the calendar right after Boeing steps up 737 production to 35 birds per month, beginning in 2012.)

At list prices running up past $80 million apiece, today's announcement could amount to a potential $1.6 billion in additional revenues for Boeing. However, in a press release of its own, boasting of its negotiating skills, Air China noted that the particular models being purchased will cost closer to $1.4 billion -- and that AC landed "significant price concessions."

Next stop?
The phrase "significant price reductions" would seem to confirm my fears of Boeing scrapping profit margins in exchange for market share. However, a level of price concessions below list value is common in these kinds of deals, and with some variable pricing still to be sorted out, and Air China paying roughly in line with the low end of list prices, the airline's boast may be exaggerated. Also, consider this good news inferred from this morning's report. Boeing's twin rate increases this month added 42 planes to the company's annual production quota. Russian carrier Rosavia's orders potentially account for three years' worth of the new production. Air China's order claims fewer than six months' worth.  

So who's buying the rest of the new 737s? -- the 31.5 planes per month that Boeing was already churning out before the rate increases were announced?

Answer: Any and all of the airlines already named above. These eggs are still in the coop, just waiting to be hatched. I suspect we'll see more good news break over the next few weeks. Twenty planes is nothing to scoff at, but I suspect larger orders are ahead. Stay tuned.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. Southwest Airlines is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.