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Ryanair to cut flights due to Boeing 737 Max crisis

The Guardian logo The Guardian 16/07/2019 Julia Kollewe
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: Ryanair expects to carry 157 million passengers in the year to March 20121. © AFP/Getty Images Ryanair expects to carry 157 million passengers in the year to March 20121.

Ryanair has warned that delays to deliveries of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft will hit passenger numbers next year and it plans to cut or close bases at some airports as a result.

Europe’s biggest budget carrier has ordered 135 of the 737 Max models, which remain grounded after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people. Boeing has yet to convince regulators that software modifications are sufficient to ensure the plane’s safety.

Ryanair now expects to carry 157 million passengers in the year to March 2021, rather than 162 million, cutting its summer 2020 growth rate to 3% from 7%.

It said the shortfall in aircraft deliveries will mean “some base cuts and closures” for the winter and next summer, and has started talking to airports to identify which underperforming or loss-making bases to shut from November. Ryanair will consult with its staff and unions.

It emerged this week that a 737 Max aircraft due to be delivered to Ryanair had the name Max dropped from the livery, fuelling speculation that the manufacturer and airlines will seek to rebrand the troubled plane once it is given the all clear to fly again.

The Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: Ryanair remains committed to the 737 Max aircraft, and now expects that it will return to flying service before the end of 2019, however the exact date of this return remains uncertain.”

The carrier has ordered the larger version with 197 seats, called Max 200, and hopes to receive its first aircraft in January or February 2020. Since it can only take delivery of six to eight new aircraft each month, it is now planning its summer 2020 schedules based on taking up to 30 deliveries up to the end of May, less than the 58 Max aircraft planned for.

O’Leary added: “Ryanair will continue to work with Boeing and EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] to recover these delivery delays during the winter of 2020, so that we can restore our growth to normal levels in summer 2021.”

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