After having abandoned negotiations with Boeing over a large 737 Max 10 order in September 2021, Ryanair has resumed talks with the U.S. airframer about its largest Max variant, according to the low-cost carrier group’s CEO, Michael O’Leary. “We are talking again,” he said in response to AIN’s question of whether the group’s high passenger growth expectations would warrant a resumption of the failed negotiations with Boeing. However, he promptly added that “the talks are not going anywhere.”
O’Leary did not specify why Max 10 talks haven’t advanced, but he walked away from previous negotiations in 2021 due to a pricing gap the sides could not close.
“We are not under pressure,” O‘Leary insisted. “We are covered until our financial year 2026 with our current deliveries.” Ryanair has ordered 210 of Boeing’s 197-seat 737 Max 8-200s for delivery from 2021 to 2025.
The airline aims to deploy up to 124 of the airplanes in the peak of the upcoming summer schedule, up from 73 in summer 2022, though O’Leary has cast doubt on Boeing’s ability to deliver the agreed number of aircraft. He believes the OEM could fall short by 12 units. According to Boeing’s order and delivery data through the end of 2022, the airline has taken delivery of 84 examples.
The airline mainly intends the Max twinjets to support growth and complement the airline’s 409 737-800s, all of which it plans to retrofit with split scimitar winglets.
With more than 600 aircraft, Ryanair said, it can carry more than 200 million passengers per year, a number the group expects to reach in its financial year ending in March 2025.
Ryanair expects to fly 168 million passengers in its current financial year through the end of March—well above the previous record of 153 million it set in its financial year ending March 2019—and 185 million passengers in its 2024 fiscal year. Its latest forecast projects up to 225 million passengers in its financial year ending March 2026. Ryanair will need new aircraft to arrive starting in mid-2025 to meet that projection and replace older aircraft.
The LCC’s growth is outpacing that of its European legacy and low-cost rivals, and the joint capacity and traffic of its five airlines—Ryanair, Buzz in Poland, Malta Air, Vienna-based Lauda, and Ryanair UK—exceed pre-Covid levels. Ryanair operated an average of 2,536 daily flights in 2022, up 9 percent from 2019, while the number of average daily flights of eight of Europe’s 10 largest operators remained below their 2019 levels, according to Eurocontrol data.
Ryanair Group’s boss also said he does not see signs of a slowdown in demand despite high inflation, the war in Ukraine, and concerns over an economic recession. “We see no sign of it at the moment,” he told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday in Brussels to present the airline’s summer flight program. “We have seen record bookings in the first two weeks of January for the February break, the Easter holidays, and the summer,” he noted. He expects summer demand and travel to remain strong as Europeans decide to vacation on the continent and American tourists flock to Europe, thanks at least partly to the strong US dollar against the euro.
Separately, O’Leary blasted new industrial action of air traffic controllers in France and repeated calls for the European Commission to regulate the separation of lower and upper airspace so overflights can take place when national ATCs strike. One solution, he said, would involve allowing Eurocontrol to handle overflights in a larger area of airspace. Eurocontrol’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre already manages the upper airspace (from 24,500 feet to 66,000 feet) over Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and northwest Germany on behalf of the four countries. O’Leary acknowledged to AIN that he “was not confident at all” that requiring a separation of the upper airspace on an EU level would ever happen because “the unions are against it and the Commission is not pushing for it.” But, he stressed, “we do need a solution, urgently.”
Air traffic controllers in France will strike between 1700 UTC on January 18 and 0600 UTC on January 20.