COVID-19: Ryanair buys 75 new MAX aircraft as it sets sights on end of coronavirus crisis

Ryanair has ordered 75 new Boeing 737 MAX jets as the aircraft prepares for a return to the skies – and the Irish carrier sets its sights on a recovery in aviation next year.

The airline announced the deal weeks after US regulators cleared the MAX to fly again following two deadly crashes, with European authorities signalling they would follow suit.

Ryanair said the MAX – which has been grounded since March 2019 – was the “most regulated in aviation history” and boss Michael O’Leary predicted passengers “will love these new aircraft”.

It would help “recover lost traffic and help the nations of Europe recover their tourism industry, and get young people back to work across the cities, beaches, and ski resorts of the EU”, he added.

The MAX was banned from flying worldwide after a crash in Ethiopia last year in which 157 people were killed – which came six months after a crash in Indonesia when 189 died.

Boeing has since made a series of changes focusing on flight control software and tested the aircraft under intense scrutiny from America’s FAA and Europe’s EASA regulators.

Ryanair said the plane delivers improved fuel efficiency and would help it to return to growth across Europe in 2021 after demand was battered by the coronavirus pandemic this year.

The airline’s purchase of 75 new MAX-8200 aircraft comes on top of 135 it has already ordered, with the total number, 210, valued at more than $22bn (£16bn).

It expects to take delivery of the first of them over a four-year period from early 2021 – and has agreed a reduction in the price as part of a compensation package agreed with Boeing after the grounding of the MAX resulted in delivery delays.

Ryanair said it would use the new aircraft to grow low fare services into new markets in Europe, encouraging consumers and the travel industry “to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, as quickly as multiple vaccines are rolled out in 2021, and life returns to normal”.

Mr O’Leary described it as a “fabulous aircraft”. It will be used to replace some of the airline’s older Boeing fleet which will remain grounded until demand for flights 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 – with these environmentally efficient aircraft – rapidly restore flights and schedules,” Mr O’Leary said.

Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun said: “We are gratified that Ryanair is once again placing its confidence in the Boeing 737 family and building their future fleet with this enlarged firm order.

Boeing remains focused on safely returning the full 737 fleet to service and on delivering the backlog of airplanes to Ryanair and our other customers in the new year.”

The deal comes after International Airlines Group, owner of British Airways, signed a letter of intent – but not a firm order – to buy 200 Boeing MAX planes, in June.

Airlines remain under intense pressure as coronavirus restrictions crush demand for flights.

Ryanair this week reported that traffic in November was 82% lower than a year ago.

Last month it reported a half-year loss of €197m (£144m) for the six months to September.

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