Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has expressed concern about slips in the timeframe for the Boeing 737 Max's expected return to service.
The budget carrier said on 16 July that it expected the Max to be back in service by December, but after reporting first-quarter results O'Leary today said that this now seemed like it would slip into January.
"We were expecting 58 aircraft for summer 2020; that's now 30 at best. It may well move to 20, could move to 10, or zero if Boeing don't get their shit together pretty quickly with the regulators," he told analysts.
O'Leary cited Southwest's decision to remove the aircraft from its schedules until January, and said the latest he had heard from Boeing was that they now planned to submit the software amendment in October, rather than September.
"It's very difficult to deal with the Boeing delays, because they keep getting delayed further and further. Up until mid-July, we were expecting them to be back flying in September. Now it looks like January next year," he says.
Ryanair will not be taking delivery of any Max aircraft until the aircraft had been declared safe to fly by both US and European regulators, O'Leary says.
If deliveries slip further, that could cut Ryanair's planned passenger numbers for the full year to March 2021 from the revised 157 million to 155 million or even 153 million, he estimates.
Ryanair is in talks with Boeing over a new aircraft order for the period from 2023 onwards, O'Leary reveals, but he says those discussions are being hindered by the airframer's "inability" to get the Max back into service. Ryanair is also in talks with Airbus, which is pricing "very aggressively" at the moment, he notes.
"Boeing is not at a point yet where we see value in a new aircraft order for the period from 2023 onwards," adds O'Leary.
He says Ryanair will be announcing base cuts and closures as a result of the Max delays over the next week or two.
It is impossible to sign up Airbus aircraft for next summer to replace the Max shortfall, he says, because there is no availability and it will hurt the pricing of second-hand A320s. The Lauda fleet of A320s is already planned to grow from 20 aircraft this summer to 32 for next summer.