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Ryanair may spend billions on cheap Chinese jets


RENEGADE: Michael O'Leary. Photo: Collins

RENEGADE: Michael O'Leary. Photo: Collins

RENEGADE: Michael O'Leary. Photo: Collins

Ryanair is set to shake the airline industry to its foundations by holding talks with Chinese and Russian airplane manufacturers about supplying Michael O'Leary's low-cost carrier with new jets.

"We're talking to everyone, the Russians and the Chinese as well," Ryanair's Michael Cawley told investors last week. "Why wouldn't we? At the right price it makes perfect sense to buy, so long as it is fuel-efficient. We are not wedded to any aircraft manufacturer" With US firm Boeing and European outfit Airbus dominating the market for major international airlines, Ryanair's decision to talk to other manufacturers is seismic.

It is thought that the low-cost carrier has held talks with Russian firm Irkut and Chinese manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac).

While Irkut and Comac have provided jets to their domestic carriers, they are largely untested in the European and Western markets.

With its usual disdain for traditional thinking or convention, Ryanair does not see buying planes from less well- known suppliers as an issue. "We would do anything seriously that would save us money," said Cawley.

Ryanair's fleet is largely made up of 737-800 jets, with a list price of about $80m (€59m) each. The Chinese or Russian jets may be considerably cheaper when ready.

Ryanair has form when it comes to extracting massive discounts from manufacturers. Michael O'Leary pulled off one of the biggest coups in aviation history when placing a bumper order for Boeing jets just days after the 9-11 attacks.

Russian aircraft maker Irkut is developing a 150-seat- plus medium range jet called the Ms-21, which has already been ordered by Aeroflot and VEB. The Chinese are also working on the Comac C919, which is a similar type of jet.

Both are expected to be introduced after 2014.

Sunday Indo Business