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Ryanair offers to take Boeing 737 Max craft if US airlines pull orders

by Staff

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Ryanair has offered to step in and pick up more Boeing 737 Max aircraft if any US airlines cancel their orders amid deepening manufacturing problems at the plane maker.

Europe’s largest airline has emerged as Boeing’s most supportive major customer after the manufacturer was plunged into crisis by a fuselage blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight earlier this month.

Several US airline bosses vented their frustration at Boeing last week, and United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby raised questions over the future of an order for 250 of Boeing’s 737 Max-10, the newest and still uncertified variant of the Max family.

On Monday, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary said Kirby’s comments were “not helpful” and backed Boeing’s management. “If United or any other airlines don’t want to take their Max-10 orders, we will be happy to step in,” he said.

The airline is reliant on deliveries of the Max family of aircraft to expand over the next decade. It has an order book of 400 new aircraft, made up of 737 Max 8 and the yet to be certified Max-10.

Ryanair said it expected to receive 50 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft before the summer, seven fewer than agreed with Boeing but in line with previous forecasts.

Under its current plans it does not expect to receive the first Max 10 until 2027, but O’Leary said he would talk to Boeing about earlier deliveries if other airlines backed away from the plane.

O’Leary was speaking as Ryanair cut its annual profit forecast after it was forced to lower fares to try to fill empty seats amid a row with online travel agents and high fuel prices.

Several major online travel companies stopped selling Ryanair flights in December as part of a long-running battle with the low-cost airline, which has accused them of inflating prices for its flights.

Ryanair on Monday said it expected to report profit after tax of between €1.85bn and €1.95bn in its financial year ending in March, down from a previously guided €1.85bn to €2.05bn.

It reported profit after tax for the three months to the end of December of €15mn, down from €211mn a year earlier due to high fuel and staff costs.

Chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said demand for travel over the summer had been strong, and that prices could rise year on year because of limited capacity in the European short-haul market.

Shares fell 3 per cent in morning trading on Monday, but analysts said they did not expect the row with travel agents to hang over the airline for long.

“A disappointing quarter that was well short of expectations should have limited long-term consequences,” Liberum Capital said.

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