Ryanair CEO ‘Very Disappointed’ With Boeing 737 Max Delays, Cuts Summer Schedules


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Ryanair will receive 30% fewer planes than expected ahead of the all-important summer season, resulting in cuts to its flying program at “higher cost airports.”

The chief executive of Ryanair has said he is “very disappointed” with additional delays to deliveries of Boeing 737 Max jets. 

The Irish budget airline group is one of the Boeing’s biggest customers. It operates a fleet comprised almost entirely of 737-800 and 737 Max aircraft. 

In a statement on Friday, Ryanair confirmed that only 40 new planes due for delivery before July will arrive on time. 

While 57 aircraft were originally expected, Ryanair said it had already baked in some flexibility to its flying program. The summer schedule currently on sale was based on receiving at least 50 of the 57 new aircraft. 

Ryanair Schedule Cuts for Summer 2024

To compensate for the further shortfall of 10 planes, the carrier is making further cuts to some flights. It said this would take the form of reducing frequencies on existing services rather than axing new routes entirely.

Removing 17 planes from a fleet of 600 aircraft may seem modest, but context is key. The new deliveries are for an optimized version which Ryanair calls the Boeing 737-MAX8200.

Along with 16% lower fuel costs, these jets can carry up to 197 passengers – more than the 189 on Ryanair’s older planes. 

While Ryanair is usually profitable year-round, it is during the summer that it really makes its money. With almost every seat occupied at peak holiday-time pricing, the delivery deficit will hit the bottom line harder than a winter delay. 

Ryanair said the changes will reduce its traffic for the 2024-25 financial year from 205 million to between 198 and 200 million. This would still be a net increase on the previous year, but lower than hoped. 

Where Will The Cuts Happen?

The airline is selecting “higher cost airports” to make the schedule cuts. It singled out Milan Malpensa, Dublin, Warsaw Modlin, and four Portuguese cities as places where service reductions will be made. All affected passengers will be offered alternative flights or full refunds. 

The lack of delivery visibility is also causing headaches for Ryanair’s schedule planners. The carrier says it will now work with Boeing to accept new planes in July, August, and September – but there’s a catch. 

Due to “delivery uncertainties” Ryanair is unable to sell seats for services operated by these aircraft for the peak season. Having valuable assets lying unused or underused is not something that comes naturally to the Irish low-cost carrier. 

For its part, ramping up production of its flagship single-aisle airliner isn’t easy for Boeing. Along with industry-wide supply chain problems, it also faces unique pressures. 

In late January, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would not grant any expansion of production for the 737 Max program. This followed a serious incident onboard an Alaska Airlines plane on January 5 when a door plug blew off mid-flight.

Ryanair Chief Stands By Boeing

Despite this latest setback, Ryanair Group CEO, Michael O’Leary, delivered another strong endorsement of the beleaguered plane maker.

“Boeing continues to have Ryanair’s wholehearted support as they work through these temporary challenges, and we are confident that their senior management team, led by Dave Calhoun [CEO] and Brian West [CFO], will resolve these production delays and quality control issues in both Wichita and Seattle,” said O’Leary.

“We are working with our airport partners to deliver some growth to them, albeit later in September and October, rather than July and August. This traffic growth can only be delivered at lower fares during these shoulder months,” the CEO added.

Speaking more broadly about the 737 Max program, Colhoun said last month that Boeing “will earn trust back through demonstrated action and a commitment to total transparency.”

The development comes just days after O’Leary warned airfares would be higher in Europe this summer. Alongside the Ryanair delivery delays, he is expecting up to 20% of competitors’ Airbus A320neo fleets to be grounded.

This is due to repairs being made to some Pratt & Whitney engines that power planes at carriers including Ryanair’s low-cost rival Wizz Air.

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