Ryanair group chief executive Michael O’Leary has declared his confidence in the safety of Boeing 737 Max aircraft but says he still believes the airframer’s management team in Seattle needs to “get its act together”.

Speaking during the Airlines for Europe (A4E) Aviation Summit in Brussels on 20 March, O’Leary said the pan-European carrier was seeing fewer quality issues in its recently delivered 737 Max 8-200 narrowbodies, but noted: “We still find spanners under floorboards, missing small things [such as] handles on seats that shouldn’t be missing when you are buying a $100 million piece of kit, and that needs to change.”


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Ryanair ended 2023 with 136 737 Max jets in its fleet

But while O’Leary says Boeing still has work to do, he also says he “doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater”.

“I have a lot of confidence in David Calhoun as the CEO of Boeing and [Brian] West as CFO,” he states. “I have less confidence in the management in Seattle [where Boeing Commercial Airplanes is based]… we need Boeing to fix the management and to get their act together.

“I think that process has started and will rapidly catch up.”

He also welcomes the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) stricter oversight of Boeing programmes, saying: “I think the FAA regulation over Boeing has been far too lax for too long.”

Still, O’Leary is keen to point out that while the 737 Max programme has generated a lot of headlines for the wrong reasons and that “production quality challenges” remain, Ryanair operates more than one million flights per year with 737-family aircraft and that he ultimately has confidence in the jet.

He also highlights the challenges Airbus is having with Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered A320neo-family jets, saying that just as he still has confidence in the Max, “I have confidence in the Airbus aircraft”.

Those dual challenges do mean, however, that capacity is going to be constrained through the coming summer season.

“Are we going to have [Boeing] delivery delays through the remainder of this year? Yes,” O’Leary says. “And is capacity in Europe going to be challenged because 20% of the Airbus fleet is going to be grounded? Yes. These are challenges that we all face.

“Both of them will fix them [but] it will take a year or two… to recover lost production.”

Ryanair recently scaled back passenger number ambitions for its coming financial year to just under 200 million after confirming it now expects to take delivery of only 40 of the 57 737 Max jets it was due to take by June.