Ryanair to order between 150 and 300 Boeing 737 Max jets

The 150 planes would be valued at more than $20 billion
May 9, 2023 at 3:30 p.m.
Flyers wait to become the first passengers to depart on a Boeing 737 from Paine Field Airport in February 2022, in Everett.
Flyers wait to become the first passengers to depart on a Boeing 737 from Paine Field Airport in February 2022, in Everett. (Ryan Berry/Everett Herald)

By David Koenig, Associated Press

Ryanair said Tuesday, May 9, it agreed to buy 150 Boeing 737 Max planes with an option for 150 more, marking the biggest aircraft purchase in the Irish airline's history and a boost for Boeing.

At Boeing's list prices, the deal would be worth more than $40 billion if Ryanair exercises all the options, but airlines routinely get deep discounts. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said the planes will replace some of the airline's older Boeing jets and provide room for growth. The airline expects to receive the planes between 2027 and 2033.

The low-cost carrier selected the largest version of the Max, which will be outfitted with 228 seats.

Boeing is benefitting from a boom in airplane orders, as air travel around the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arlington, Virginia-based company has struggled, however, with production issues affecting the Max and a larger plane, the 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing announced last month that deliveries of a “significant” number of new Max jets will be delayed while the company and supplier Spirit AeroSystems fix incorrect fittings between the fuselage and tail sections, a problem that was discovered to date back to 2019.

The announcement Tuesday amounts to a vote of confidence from one of Boeing’s best customers – and one that has bluntly expressed its displeasure with the aircraft maker in the past.

Last year, O’Leary went on an expletive-laced rant to complain about Boeing’s slow pace of aircraft deliveries and an inability to settle terms for an aircraft order. He said on a call with analysts in May 2022 that Boeing management “is running around like headless chickens."

On Tuesday, O'Leary said that the companies revived their stalled negotiations about two months ago. Ryanair agreed to pay more than it wanted — and more per seat than its last Boeing order — but it was time for the companies to “kiss and make up,” he said.

“We had a bit of a bust-up a year ago over pricing, and we had to move somewhat to get this deal done today,” he said during a news conference at Boeing headquarters.

O'Leary said the planes will help Ryanair grow to 300 million passengers a year by 2034, nearly double the current number, and with planes that are more fuel-efficient than its current fleet.

U.S. regulators have not yet approved the plane that Ryanair ordered, the 737 Max 10. Boeing CEO David Calhoun said the company hopes to win certification by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2024 -- three years ahead of Ryanair's first expected delivery.

Boeing has received other large orders, including for the Max 10, recently from United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Air India.

Shares of Boeing gained 2% in afternoon trading Tuesday.

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