Ryanair: Single fleet rule no longer applies

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Ryanair has now reached the size where it can operate a dual fleet without jeopardising its low-cost model, according to deputy CEO and chief financial officer Howard Millar.

By 2012 Ryanair plans to operate over 300 aircraft, carrying around 85 million passengers, which Millar believes gives it the critical mass to operate two types without losing any economic advantage.

"If you have just 20 aircraft, it doesn't make sense to have two chief pilots and two chief engineers," says Millar. "But if we have 150 Boeing and 150 Airbus aircraft, it is such a vast number that the incremental costs would be quite low."

This could simply be a negotiating ploy. Millar says Ryanair's all-Boeing fleet means it is "in danger of a monster in the room" and he says it is important to "keep the other guy in the game".

But he also insists: "At the right price we would certainly have a mixed fleet. With our size and scale, we could serve southern Europe with Airbus aircraft and northern Europe with Boeings. I believe it can be done."

Despite Ryanair's all-Boeing fleet, Millar is very complimentary of Airbus. He highlights the advantage of the A320's engine choices, compared with the sole-supplier on the 737.

He says: "The A320 is far superior [to the 737] in terms of electronics and avionics. It is a more modern aircraft, with a bigger cabin. The A320 came along 10-15 years after the first 737, so the technology is newer."

At the same time, he believes that investment in the A320NEO would be better spent on an all-new aircraft, giving Boeing an advantage.

With other players now entering the market, Millar advises both manufacturers to beware. "It is a bit like the computer industry. At first there was just IBM and a few others. Now there is a whole load of manufacturers. When China started producing televisions, the Americans said they had no experience, but by God they've got good at it. Over the next 10-15 years a lot is going to happen."