Ryanair Group CEO Michael O'Leary has described the initial performance of the Boeing 737 Max 8-200 as “fantastic” and said that the aircraft has met with glowing reviews from the airline’s crew and passengers. The low-cost carrier took delivery of its first two 737 Max jets last month and the pair operated some 20 passenger flights from the group’s bases in London Stansted, Dublin, and Milan Bergamo. Load factor averaged about 75 percent and not one passenger requested to change flights owing to a lack of confidence in the safety of the type, O’Leary said. “We think they will deliver what [Boeing] promised—4 percent more seats [compared with its 189-seat 737-800s] but probably a 16 to 17 percent lower fuel consumption per seat and 40 percent less CO2 emissions,” he told AIN.
Ten more of the Max 8 subvariant will join the group’s fleet in July, O'Leary said, acknowledging that the plan marks an exception on its standard practice of not adding new aircraft during the peak summer season. “Because of the several delays we wanted to have the 12 aircraft in the system before starting the pace of eight deliveries per month from September,” said O’Leary. “Between September and April 2022, we are taking delivery of 54 Max Gamechanger aircraft. We bought three simulators and we trained all our pilots and cabin crew on these new aircraft. We want to start working them.”
Ryanair has 210 Max 8-200s on firm order. Deliveries will run over the next four years and take the group’s fleet to around 600 aircraft by the 2026 financial year. The Max jets will fly for three of the four Ryanair subsidiaries—Ryanair, Malta Air, and Poland-based Buzz—and feature their respective brands.
Despite its cross-EU operations, Ryanair will not move toward a single European Aviation Safety Agency air operator certificate (EASA AOC). “EASA is very inefficient," O'Leary asserted. "Most of our AOC regulators—the Irish, Maltese, Polish, and Austrian—provide these [regulatory safety oversight and aircraft certification] services at much more competitive prices than EASA." He called EASA very helpful to Ryanair during the Minsk, Belarus incident in May—when Belarussian air traffic control forced flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk using a false bomb threat as a pretext for arresting two passengers, Roman Protasevich, a Belarussian dissident, and his Russian girlfriend—and the agency does a “very good job” on air safety, he said. But, he added, there remains “considerable unhappiness” with a lot of the measures the Cologne, Germany-based agency introduced during the pandemic.
“When they start mixing health or non-health issues with aviation safety, we disagree with them,” O’Leary said, referring to EASA’s recommendation last year, at the start of the Covid crisis, that airlines should keep every second seat free and the March Safety Information Bulletin recommending that aircrew members should consider a waiting period of 48 hours after each dose of Covid-19 vaccine to engage in any flight-related tasks. “Every vaccination center says wait for 15 minutes and if you feel OK, you are free to go,” said O’Leary. “Pilots and cabin crew can tell us if they don’t feel well and we will replace them, but mandating a 48-hour wait in our view is nonsense.”
Ryanair regained its position as the largest airline operating in Europe, according to Eurocontrol data for the first four days of July. The group operated on average 1,867 flights per day, more than double the number of flights operated by Air France, Lufthansa, or EasyJet. Speaking to media in Brussels last week, O'Leary said the LCC saw a “very strong recovery of traffic across Europe” with the exception of Ireland and parts of the British market, owing to a combination of recovery of its route network, low fares, an increase in vaccination rates, and the introduction of the EU Digital Covid Certificate. He added that he expects the group will more than quadruple passenger numbers in a four-month period. Ryanair flew 1.7 million passengers in May and 5.3 million in June. Those figures could increase to 8 million in July and more than 10 million in August if the UK and Ireland lift their travel restrictions later this month, as their governments have announced they will do, he said.