Ryanair Holdings Plc said aircraft deliveries may be at risk of delay ahead of the coming summer travel season as Boeing Co grapples with manufacturing issues after an accident on a 737 Max 9 earlier this month. Michael O’Leary, chief executive officer of the Irish discount carrier, said he’s stepping up inspections at Boeing, though he’s unsure how the planemaker’s latest crisis will affect Ryanair deliveries. He said he’s concerned that the number of planes he receives by June will come in at the low end of the 45-50 Max jets he previously expected. Boeing was thrown into turmoil on January 5 when a fuselage panel blew off a Max 9 operated by Alaska Airlines after takeoff.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded most of the 737 Max 9 fleet, and Boeing’s shares are the worst performers among the 30 members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year. Ryanair, a key Boeing customer, won’t know how many aircraft Boeing will deliver this year until the impact is understood, O’Leary said. The CEO said in December that he was gaining confidence that Ryanair would have as many as 50 new Max jets available by summer, the period of peak travel demand.
“I think the risk is that there will be further delivery delays, that Boeing management will get distracted in Seattle or there’ll be new processes,” he said during an interview. Ryanair has now doubled the number of engineers that oversee quality control at Boeing in Seattle and at its top supplier, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc, O’Leary said. The move followed a similar move by Alaska Air announced over the weekend, and was partly due to Boeing’s request, he said.
“I think that’s a bit of overkill,” he said of Ryanair’s move. “Boeing is trying to demonstrate both to the FAA and to the world that they’re open and transparent.” Ryanair only accepts jet deliveries during the off-season, as it then turns its focus towards its summer flying schedule. The 737 Max 9 flown by Alaska Air utilised a door cutout in the frame that some carriers use for an emergency exit and others close up. Ryanair is a customer for the coming Max 10, a variant that will also use the modular cutouts. O’Leary said he now isn’t sure whether the Max 10 will gain regulatory certification by the end of this year. Boeing has disclosed a number of issues tied to Max production in the past year, from missing or loose bolts in its rudder assemblies in December to misdrilled holes on bulkheads and problems with fin attachments. The FAA has launched an investigation into Boeing production and increased oversight in light of the latest incident on Alaska Air Flight 1282. O’Leary has called out a lack of quality control at Boeing for some time. Build standards just after Covid-19 were “terrible,” he said, saying Ryanair found small pieces on newly delivered jets that were broken or missing, and the carrier even found a wrench left under a floorboard.
Since September, when Boeing increased the number of quality control engineers, Ryanair had seen a “marked improvement” and fewer defects on delivered aircraft, O’Leary said.