Ryanair says it will likely reduce capacity at some bases and potentially close others due to ongoing delays to the delivery of its new fleet of Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
The airline, which has 135 of Boeing’s 737 Max 200 variant on order, says it remains committed to the Max and expects it to return to service before the end of the year.
However, delays delivering its new Maxs will see Ryanair cut its planned rate of growth for summer 2020 by 4% and full-year traffic through March 2021 by about five million passengers.
The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March following a second fatal crash in just five months when Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 came down en route to Nairobi.
Boeing is working on a software fix for a deep-seated flight control system, which preliminary investigations have found to have been active during both catastrophes.
In a trading update issued on Tuesday (16 July), Ryanair said despite Boeing hoping to submit a “certification package” – understood to contain the software fix and new pilot training resources – by September, with a view to the 737 Max returning to the skies shortly after, it was planning for that date “to slip by some months, possibly as late as December”.
“As Ryanair has ordered the Boeing Max 200s, which are a variant of the Max aircraft, these need to be separately certified by the FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] and Easa [European Union Aviation Safety Agency],” said the airline. “Ryanair expects the Max 200 will be approved for flight services within two months of the Max return to service.
“Accordingly, Ryanair now hopes to receive its first Max 200 aircraft sometime between January and February 2020.”
The airline, though, said it was only able to take delivery of six to eight new aircraft a month, meaning it was planning its summer 2020 schedules on taking delivery of up to 30 Maxs by the end of May – nearly half the 58 Boeing was originally scheduled to deliver in time for Ryanair’s summer 2020 programme.
“This number could rise, or fall further, depending on when the Max actually returns to flight services,” said Ryanair.
Basing its summer schedules on 30 aircraft rather than 58 will see Ryanair’s proposed rate of growth for summer 2020 fall from 7% to just 3%, while full-year traffic growth for the year to 31 March 2021 will be cut from 162 million passengers to 157 million.
“This shortfall in aircraft deliveries will necessitate some base cuts and closures for summer 2020, but also for the winter 2019 schedule,” said Ryanair.
“We are starting a series of discussions with our airports to determine which of Ryanair’s underperforming or loss-making bases should suffer these short-term cuts and/or closures from November 2019. We will also be consulting with our people and our unions in planning and implementing these base cuts and closures.”
Ryanair added it would work with Boeing and Easa to recover the delays during winter 2020/21 and restore growth to “normal levels” by summer 2021.