Ryanair may not receive any 737 MAX aircraft from Boeing in time for its summer season due to European delays in testing the grounded jets, the airline's chief executive, Michael O'Leary, has said.
O'Leary told Reuters that testing in Europe was running behind the US schedule due to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) wanting to be seen as independent from US regulators, meaning that the model is likely to remain grounded in the region until April or May of 2020.
Ryanair estimates that the issue is costing it at least €100 million a year. A trimmed passenger traffic forecast from the low-cost carrier last week was still based on 10 MAX deliveries by June, down from previously reduced expectations of 20 and the 60 originally scheduled.
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O'Leary said in an interview, "We're still looking to meet with Boeing in mid-early January. We expect the MAX to be back flying in early January, particularly in North America. We think it could be a bit slower in Europe because the EASA seems to be dragging their heels a little bit.
"Maybe 10 [MAX], maybe none, maybe 15, in advance of summer 2020. The critical thing for us is that the aircraft returns to service. The implications for the next 12 months are that we will be short of our original fleet growth aspirations."
A spokeswoman for the EASA, which suspended all flight operations related to the aircraft in March, said that it would like to see the MAX return to service as soon as possible, but only once the planes were safe and recertification was taking place "independently of commercial, economic or political pressures."
EASA said that it plans to conduct further audits of 737 MAX software in mid-December, with test flights in January, although no firm date had been set for the flights.
US Airline Cancellations
The 737 MAX, Boeing's fastest-selling aircraft, was grounded earlier this year after two crashes attributed to anti-stall software in which a total of 346 people died.
US airlines have cancelled MAX flights until March.
One Of The Biggest MAX Customers
Ryanair, one of the biggest MAX customers with 210 planes on order, has cut its traffic forecast from 157 million passengers to 156 million for the year to March 31, 2021.
O'Leary said that Ryanair will not be able to put a final cost on the delays until the planes are back flying and deliveries scheduled, but asserted that "it is certainly costing us more than a €100 million a year."
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