Ryanair CEO Flags Progress on Max 10 Talks with Boeing

 - August 31, 2021, 10:54 AM
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary on August 31 announced 14 new routes from London as part of its winter schedule. (Photo: Ryanair)

Talks between Ryanair and Boeing on an order for 230-seat Max 10 jets continue, but the parties have not yet reached an agreement on pricing, Ryanair group chief executive Michael O’Leary said Tuesday during a press briefing in Brussels.  “We are making progress,” he told AIN. “We are hopeful to reach an agreement on the pricing of a new order sometime before summer 2022.” He added that the size of the order would depend on the pricing. “It will be somewhere between 100 and 200 aircraft,” he noted.

Ryanair is the largest European customer for the 737 Max, having placed firm orders for 210 of the Max 8-200 variant. The Irish low-cost carrier received its first Max 8-200 configured with 197 seats in June and now has taken delivery of 12 of the type. Schedules call for a further 55 to join the group’s fleet before summer next year.

O’Leary described a new Ryanair Max commitment as “important” for both sides, and particularly for Boeing because the U.S. airframer needs an order to offset the many delivery deferrals and order cancellations it recorded. “As Boeing’s largest consumer in Europe it is important Ryanair continues to invest in Boeing aircraft because most of the [low-cost] airlines in Europe are Airbus customers,” he noted. EasyJet, Wizz Air, and Vueling, for instance, operate Airbus A320 family aircraft, and Eurowings’ short-haul fleet also consists of mostly A320 family airliners. UK-based Jet2 on Tuesday announced it has ordered 36 A321neos as part of its fleet expansion and renewal plans. Besides a couple of leased A321s, Jet2 currently uses 737s on short- and medium-haul services. “We are like the beacon of light for Boeing in Europe, demonstrating that Boeing is the better aircraft than Airbus for low-cost, high-frequency travel,” O’Leary quipped.

Separately, O’Leary said he sees a “dramatic recovery” of traffic across the group’s network on the back of a rise in Covid-19 vaccinations and easing restrictions for intra-European travel. Load factor in August averaged 80 percent and the company projects it will carry more than 10.5 million passengers in August.  The company will announce traffic figures for August next Monday and the data will show that Ryanair grew “much stronger than any other airline,” O’Leary asserted.

Eurocontrol data for the week of August 23 to August 29 reveal Ryanair as Europe’s busiest airline “by a long way,” according to Eurocontrol director-general Eamonn Brennan. Ryanair flew on average 2,381 flights a day in that week, down just 12 percent on 2019, while overall traffic in the European network was still down 30 percent on 2019 levels. Turkish Airlines ranked as the second biggest operator with an average of 1,322 flights per day, followed by EasyJet with 1,186 daily flights.

Ryanair has also recorded a strong uptick in bookings for September, October, and November, O’Leary said. He anticipates “an exciting winter in terms of volume [but] not so much in prices.” Pricing will continue to strengthen through the winter but remain below pre-pandemic levels. “We don't expect pricing to go back to pre-Covid levels until the summer of 2022,” he asserted.