Ryanair will not be marketing the Boeing 737 Max differently to the other aircraft in its fleet, its chief executive confirmed today.
During a call with analysts after announcing slower growth plans for 2020 as a result of the Max grounding, Michael O'Leary repeatedly referred to the aircraft as the "Max".
"We will not be separately designating the Max aircraft from the NGs," he says. "It's impossible because we do our aircraft allocations overnight, so we have no idea tomorrow or next month which flight will be operated by an NG or a 737 Max."
He does not expect there to be a customer perception issue or lack of confidence in the aircraft once it is back flying. He cites the example of the 787, which was grounded for a short while over lithium-battery issues.
"Once the return to service is successfully managed, I think the Ryanair aircraft will be warmly welcomed by our passengers who fly on them, in much the same way that the passengers love flying the 787 and it has become an incredibly popular aircraft," O'Leary predicts.
In terms of pilot training, he says the expectation at the moment is that pilots will require additional computer-based training, with simulator time to come as part of the regular six-monthly simulator checks, although he adds that this could still change.
Referring to a picture circulating on social media which purportedly shows a Ryanair Max aircraft with the Max name no longer on the nose, O'Leary says the airline doesn't put names on its aircraft, just a registration number and "a big Ryanair".
The airline's announcement of planned cuts to its schedule for winter 2019 and 2020 boosted shares in rivals today, as analysts highlighted that the lower capacity could relieve pressure on yields in the European short-haul market.
Shares in Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Norwegian and EasyJet all gained by 3-4%.
"With the European short-haul market plagued by overcapacities this year, a slowing of Ryanair's growth for next summer may provide some welcome respite in a year that, based on delivery schedules, could have been even worse," Bernstein analysts wrote in reaction. They add that it will be interesting to see how rivals react, whether by increasing capacity to grab market share or curbing growth to support yields.
O'Leary declined to comment on the impact on fares and yields today, saying he would provide more colour at Ryanair's first-quarter results briefing on 29 July.
The carrier is slowing its plans to sell 10 older 737s to GECAS and return around 16 that are currently being leased between now and summer 2020.
O'Leary says it is likely Ryanair will not return all of the 16 leased aircraft or deliver all 10 aircraft to GECAS and will instead keep some for the summer 2020 flying season. He adds that even if Ryanair keeps some of these aircraft for longer, it won't massively change the new growth plans announced today.
He also highlights that keeping the older aircraft will have some "cost ramifications" in terms of heavy maintenance and lease commitments.
"We are in discussions with Boeing and would be expecting them to contribute to any consequential costs that arise," he says.
While he acknowledges that it is "disappointing" that deliveries have been delayed and that Ryanair has had to cut its growth plans as a result, he stresses that Ryanair remains confident in the aircraft, which he sees as a "great product".
"If Boeing could deliver us 58 aircraft between now and the end of May, we would take all 58," he says, citing the "phenomenal" operating costs.
"We have always described these aircraft as game changers and they will remain game changers," he adds.