Ryanair CEO Pans Boeing for Max 8-200 Delivery Delays

 - May 17, 2021, 11:34 AM
Ryanair hopes to take 60 Boeing 737 Max 8-200s by summer 2022. (Image: Boeing)

Ryanair group CEO Michael O’Leary expressed his belief that there remains a “real risk” that Europe’s largest low-cost carrier might not receive its first Boeing Max 8-200s in advance of the peak summer season owing to what he described as Boeing’s continuous mismanagement of the delivery process. “Over the medium term, I expect those delivery problems to be resolved and I am confident that we will take at least 60 of those aircraft in advance of summer 2022. But in the short term there is nothing but a problem,” O’Leary said on Monday in a prerecorded presentation following the release of the company's results for the financial year ended March 31. “And the problem does not lay with the FAA or EASA but with Boeing.”

O’Leary, who until now has remained supportive of Boeing throughout the Max’s grounding following two deadly crashes in 2019, acknowledged he currently is “quite upset” with the OEM. The FAA certified the high-density Boeing 737 Max 8-200 on March 31 and the EU Aviation Safety Agency validated the variant on April 6. “We are now eight weeks later and we are still waiting for the first delivery,” said O’Leary. “We are now being told by [Boeing] that the first delivery will be in late May. I am not sure we necessarily believe that.”  

The LCC had hoped to take delivery of 14 of the “game-changer” aircraft in advance of the upcoming peak summer season, “but as the management team in Seattle continues to mismanage that process I think there is a real risk we might not see any of these aircraft in advance of summer 2021,” he lamented.

Ryanair is the launch customer for the Max 8-200 and increased its firm order from 135 to 210 in December 2020. Ryanair’s Maxes will come fitted with 197 seats, compared with 189 in its 737-800s. Before the 737 Max grounding, Ryanair expected to take its first Max aircraft in April 2019. It plans to initially base the aircraft where the group has significant maintenance capabilities, Ryanair's chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said. The Max 8-200s operate for Ryanair and the group’s Poland- and Malta-based subsidiaries, Buzz and Malta Air.

Despite the issues regarding grounding, recertification, delivery, and, recently, electrical wiring, O’Leary stressed that the airline looks forward to receiving the aircraft. “It is an exciting aircraft,” he said, highlighting once again its improved economic and environmental performance versus its 737-800NGs. As part of its commitment to reduce CO₂ emissions, Ryanair in April established a Sustainable Aviation Research Centre partnership with Trinity College Dublin to help accelerate the development of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Ryanair’s has set a goal to power 12.5 percent of its flights with SAF by 2030.  This, together with the group’s investment in Max 8-200s, will help Ryanair achieve its target of lowering CO₂ per passenger/km by 10 percent to 60 grams by 2030. 

While waiting for the first Max 8-200 to arrive, Ryanair continues discussions with Boeing for a significant order of the larger Max 10. “Boeing has committed that we will be the first in the queue,” said O’Leary. “But we are not quite there on pricing yet.” The deliveries of the follow-up order would run from 2026 through 2030.

Ryanair reported a net loss of €815 million in its financial year ended March 31, which, said O’Leary, “is better than we predicted, but still a fairly traumatic loss for an airline that has been consistently profitable for our 35-year history.” The group flew 27.5 million passengers last year, down 81 percent from 149 million the previous financial year due to Covid-19 restrictions. Looking forward, Ryanair expects heavily curtailed traffic in the quarter ending in June—to between five and six million passengers—and full-year traffic toward the lower end of its previously guided range of 80 to 120 million passengers.