Ryanair boosts Boeing with new order for ‘gamechanger’ Boeing 737 MAX

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Ryanair is bolstering its bet on Boeing’s beleaguered 737 MAX.

The European budget giant placed a firm order for 75 more 737 MAXes that adds to the 135 already on the books.

The order – announced Thursday – comes after nearly two years of trouble for the MAX, which was grounded by regulators worldwide in March 2019 following the second of two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. The jet was finally cleared to fly again by the Federal Aviation Administration just last month and European regulators are expected to follow soon.

For Boeing, the order is its first firm order for the MAX since the jet was grounded.

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Still, airlines that will fly the MAX now must address lingering concerns from customers.

“One issue that’s going to come up here today is safety,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said as he began his comments during a press conference to announce the order.

“So let’s get it out in front,” he continued. “This is the most scrutinized, most audited aircraft in history. It’s also going to be one of the safest aircraft that’s ever been delivered. What’s not often understood about the Boeing MAX is it’s already accomplished over 840,000 flight hours. It had been flying for 22 months, from May 2017 to March 2019. Forty-six million people have already flown in the MAX aircraft and loved it.”

Related: American Airlines flies MAX for first time since grounding

O’Leary said passengers skittish about flying on the MAX will be given the chance to switch to other flights during the plane’s first few months of service with Ryanair.

“We’ll let people offload, if you want,” he said, before adding: “I don’t think there’ll be very many. In fact, there won’t be, because this is a great aircraft. We’re very confident in it.”

Video: Boeing gets largest 737 MAX order since crashes (Reuters)

Reuters

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O’Leary said the jet will become the lynchpin for Ryanair’s aggressive post-pandemic growth plans.

Related: FAA re-certifies the 737 MAX

Ryanair’s new MAXes – a high-density version of the MAX 8 – can seat 197 passengers, up from the capacity of 189 on Ryanair’s previous 737 models. Ryanair hopes to have up to 30 of the new MAXes in its fleet in time for Europe’s peak summer travel season in 2021.

“We intend to accelerate the recovery of traffic, tourism and jobs across the continent of Europe in the next five years,” O’Leary said. “This aircraft gives us more seats, a lower fuel saving, and it will help us drive sustained profit … .”

Ryanair – already one of Europe’s biggest carriers – wants to fly 200 million passengers annually by 2025 as it grows its fleet from 450 jets to 600. The airline flew 149 million in 2019, but expects that to plummet to just 35 million or less this year because of the pandemic.

Related: How to tell if you’re booking a MAX

In announcing the deal, Ryanair’s O’Leary occasionally used the word MAX — though he more frequently referred to the jet as the 737-8200. That’s not a new designation for the new MAX 8 variant, for which Ryanair is the launch customer. Still, the plane has more frequently been referred to as the “MAX 200″ since it was first unveiled.

When asked if that might amount to an attempt downplay the MAX name, both O’Leary and Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun pushed back.

“We’re very proud of this aircraft,” O’Leary said. “I don’t care whether they call it the Boeing MAX (or …) the Boeing 737-8200. We call it the ‘Gamechanger.’ All I know is our customers are going to love flying on this plane.”

Related: Southwest standing by MAX

Boeing’s Calhoun was more direct.

“There is no rebranding going on,” he said. “There’s nothing cute about the way we’re emphasizing the 737 family. The MAX is an airplane inside the 737 family.”

Featured image courtesy of Boeing.

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