Planemaker Boeing was forced to ground the 737 MAX after two deadly crashes but they are now cleared to fly again and will come to Liverpool Airport after Ryanair placed a mega order. Tony McDonough reports
A Boeing airliner that was grounded following two fatal crashes will soon be flying regularly from Liverpool Airport after Ryanair increased its multi-billion pound order.
Regulators in the US grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in March 2019 following two separate crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia which killed 346 people. Now the plane has been cleared to fly again.
Low cost airline Ryanair, which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic operated more than 30 routes out of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, originally ordered 135 of the aircraft which chief executive Michael O’Leary said would be a “game-changer’ due to its extra capacity and fuel efficiency.
With the plane now cleared to fly again Ryanair has increased its order to 210 planes at a total value of £16.3bn. It has secured the extra 75 jets at a bargain price of £94m each. That is less than half of the list price for aircraft. They will be delivered over a four-year period from spring 2021 to December 2024.
This latest deal is a sign of the new-found confidence that the success of the development of COVID-19 vaccines has injected into the aviation sector which has been decimated by the pandemic. Last month, Ryanair’s main Liverpool rival easyJet posted an annual £1.2bn loss.
Ryanair says it has no fears over the safety of the 197-seat Boeing 737 MAX which it says will be “the most audited, most regulated in aviation history”. It offers eight more seats per flight, yet burns 16% less fuel, and lowers noise emissions by 40%. The carrier claims the plane will make it “Europe’s greenest, cleanest airline”.
Michael O’Leary said: “The Boeing MAX is a fabulous aircraft with more seats, more leg room, lower fares, lower fuel consumption, and it sets incredible environmental standards, including 40% less noise and lower CO2 emissions.
“We hope to take delivery of at least 50 of these aircraft in 2021, subject to Boeing recovering its manufacturing output to deliver them. For as long as the COVID-19 pandemic depresses air travel, we will use these new aircraft to replace some of our older Boeing NG fleet, which will remain grounded until pre-COVID demand returns.
“But as soon as the COVID-19 virus recedes – and it will in 2021 with the rollout of multiple effective vaccines – Ryanair and our partner airports across Europe will rapidly restore flights and schedules, recover lost traffic and help the nations of Europe recover their tourism industry.
“We are working closely with Boeing and our senior pilot professionals to assist our regulator EASA to certify these aircraft in Europe, and to complete the training of our pilots and crews across our three new Boeing MAX simulators in Dublin and Stansted.”
Mr O’Leary thanked Ryanair’s shareholders for supporting a €1.25bn fund-raising effort without which, he said, the company would not have been able to place the order for the new aircraft.