Ryanair in discussions to buy bigger jets for busiest routes
Ryanair would use 230-seat aircraft to service high-density routes where it's either slot constrained or where demand peaks at certain times of the year, if it converts some existing Boeing orders for the 737 Max jets to a larger version of the aircraft.
But even if ordered, the larger jets - the biggest version available of the 737 Max - wouldn't join the Ryanair fleet for another two or three years.
Speaking to 'Bloomberg' TV yesterday, Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs confirmed that the airline is talking to Boeing about two of the larger aircraft type, known as the Max 9 and Max 10.
The Max 200 that Ryanair has on order seats up to 200, which is 11 more than the 737 Max 8, providing extra revenue combined with 5pc lower operating costs. Under aviation rules, for every 50 seats, a carrier has to have one cabin crew member.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has previously said that one of the advantages of the Max 200 was that by having up to 200 seats, the jet would not need an additional cabin crew member. Ryanair has 100 of the jets on order and also has 100 options for the aircraft type. Ryanair would carry 197 passengers on the Max 200.
Having 230 seats will require an extra crew member, but the airline is thought to believe that having an extra 30 available seats outweighs the extra labour cost involved. It's likely that some holiday routes to destinations in countries such as Spain could be prime targets for Ryanair with the Max 200, for instance, while it could also look to boost capacity at airports such as London Gatwick, which is slot-constrained at peak times.
Mr Jacobs yesterday cited Ryanair's Glasgow-Lanzarote route as one that could benefit from a larger aircraft. A Max 9 or 10 could also be utilised on routes to Israel, he said, where the longer sector length reduces aircraft utilisation on those services.
"A bigger aircraft wouldn't change our operating model," he said. "It's just that you can get more people on it and enhance the cost per unit. We're not interested in having a varied fleet."
Easyjet recently converted an order for 30 Airbus A320s into larger A321 Neos. The larger jets have 49 extra seats. Easyjet chief executive Carolyn McCall said last month that the bigger aircraft would also help it to boost capacity at airports like Gatwick, Amsterdam and Geneva, which are all slot-constrained at busy times.
Last month, Mr O'Leary didn't rule out the possibility that Ryanair could be operating as many as 1,000 aircraft by 2030. The airline aims to be carrying 200 million passengers a year by 2024.
The airline has a fleet of about 400 Boeing aircraft that will grow to about 600 once it receives the last jets under a current order, in 2023.