Ryanair still wants to launch a low-fare, transatlantic carrier with either Airbus or Boeing widebodies, but only if it can take delivery of 40 to 50 newly-acquired aircraft within a two-year period at opportunistic prices, says chief executive Michael O’Leary.

As a result, the Irish low-cost carrier’s dream of long-haul operations are likely a medium-term pursuit at least four or five years away, says O’Leary.

That is, unless something comes up that creates an expected shortage of demand for widebody aircraft.

“We’d be opportunistic about this,” he says. “If something untoward happens, we’d move quickly. But we need something to happen.”

The “something” he refers to is an economic shock, which tend to hurt the airline industry every so often, he says, citing the Asian SARS outbreak as an example.

Aircraft buying by Gulf carriers, however, have postponed a normal cyclic downturn in widebody demand, he says.

“Until something – the Gulf carriers kind of either blow each others’ brains out or blow Lufthansa’s and AirFrance-KLM’s brains out – until that kind of sorts itself out, really I don’t see the aircraft availability situation resolving itself,” O’Leary says.

Meanwhile, the carrier is talking to Airbus about a possible order for A330neos, the re-engined version of the twin-aisle launched at the Farnborough air show.

But it’s clear the exclusive 737 operator prefers the Boeing alternative.

“The 787 is such a great airplane,” O'Leary says. “I think the obvious one with Boeing would be the 78. Its performance is very good. You could clearly go Europe-West Coast.”

Ryanair envisions a separate operation with routes connecting the top markets between the USA and Europe. It hopes to avoid the example of the former People Express, which attempted to transform a short-haul low-fare carrier into a transatlantic carrier in the mid-1980s.

O'Leary also hopes to avoid the problems that he says are facing Norwegian, which he believes is too small to enjoy economies of scale.

Ryanair will also avoid turning to lessors to soften the aircraft availability problem. It has built its current fleet entirely through the acquisition of new aircraft, thereby controlling costs.

“We’re not keeping some idly-rich leasing company in the style to which they’ve become accustomed,” he says.

Source: Cirium Dashboard