As Ryanair’s first 737 Max arrives, passengers offered chance to switch planes

·3-min read
Flying in: the first Ryanair Boeing 737 Max is on its way from Seattle to Dublin (Ed Turner)
Flying in: the first Ryanair Boeing 737 Max is on its way from Seattle to Dublin (Ed Turner)

As Ryanair takes delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max, chief executive Michael O’Leary has promised passengers booked on the plane that they can switch to another aircraft if they wish.

“So confident are we in this aircraft, so confident our passengers will want to travel on this aircraft, we’ll allow them to offload if they don’t want to travel on a Max,” he told The Independent.

“They won’t get a refund but they can travel on the next available flight on that route.

“If you’re reluctant to fly on the Max you can offload and fly on the next ‘NG’ aircraft – which thankfully in Stansted or in Dublin won’t be very long behind you.”

The NG is the Boeing 737-800, the only aircraft Ryanair currently flies. The offer is expected to be open for four to six months.

Europe’s biggest budget airline has ordered 210 of a special high-capacity variant of the latest version of the jet.

The first departed from Boeing Field in Seattle shortly after 1am local time on Wednesday. The aircraft, registered EI-HEN, is due to touch down in Dublin shortly before 6pm after a 4,540-mile delivery flight.

Ryanair’s first 197-seat Max aircraft will enter service before the end of June, over two years later than originally planned.

The planes are expected to be based at London Stansted, Ryanair’s biggest hub, and its Dublin airport home.

The 737 Max was involved in two tragedies soon after entering service. In October 2018, 189 people died when Lion Air flight 610 came down in the Java Sea shortly after leaving Jakarta.

The following March, 157 passengers and crew lost their lives aboard Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in similar circumstances after taking off from Addis Ababa.

The cause of both tragedies was a software system that was designed to help pilots handle the jet, but which fatally malfunctioned and defeated the flight crews’ efforts to save the aircraft.

The Max was grounded for 20 months while safety enhancements were made. It reentered service in December 2020.

Mr O’Leary said: “It’s carried more than a million passengers in the past five months, there have been no recorded incidents, the software has been fixed and I think people are really going to love flying on this airplane.”

Other operators that are already flying the Max have told The Independent there are no significant passenger concerns.

Traffic has collapsed on Ryanair and other European airlines during the pandemic. In the year to the end of March 2021, the Irish carrier saw passenger numbers fall by more than 80 per cent to 27.5 million.

But the chief executive said the Max will fuel a rapid return to previous traffic levels and further expansion.

“Our rate of growth is now going to accelerate over the next four years,” he said.

“We have many more airport partners across the UK and the rest of Europe who are desperate for us to resume growth and return to our pre-Covid volumes of 150 million-plus passengers.

“We expect to see the Ryanair group of airlines carry more than 200 million passengers in the next four or five years.”

Mr O’Leary said he “very much hoped” to be heading the carrier in five years’ time. He became CEO in 1994.

Ryanair is the safest airline in the world in terms of passengers flown without a fatal accident.

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