Business Irish

Friday 22 March 2019

Ryanair to 'wait on outcome of probe' with 135 aircraft on order


A grounded Air China 737 Max 8 sits on the tarmac at Beijing. Photo: REUTERS
A grounded Air China 737 Max 8 sits on the tarmac at Beijing. Photo: REUTERS

John Mulligan and Ellie Donnelly

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said his airline will not rush to judgment after the fatal crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight, as the Irish carrier prepares to take a delivery of similar jets.

"We wouldn't take any action at the moment," he told the Irish Independent in an exclusive interview.

Shares in US-listed Boeing fell as much as 13pc yesterday after the second deadly crash in five months involving one of its new 737 Max jets.

Norwegian Air's shares also fell sharply including on investor concerns about the potential impact of the crash on the airline, which has 18 737 Max jets in service and more on order.

Ryanair has 135 of the planes on order - but none in service.

Sunday's crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 shortly after leaving Addis Ababa bound for Nairobi resulted in the deaths of 157 people.

It followed the loss of 189 passengers and crew when a Lion Air jet crashed in Indonesia last October.

Ryanair's orders for 135 of the 737 Max - with a list price of around €18bn - make the Irish airline a key customer for Boeing, so any action could have big repercussions.

Mr O'Leary said he was "not particularly" concerned as yet in relation to the order.

"We need to wait and see what the outcome of the investigation will be," said Mr O'Leary yesterday.

"They've recovered the black box this morning, I understand, so we'll wait and see what Boeing and the safety agencies [say].

"We're into the realms of speculation," he added. "There's a reasonable understanding of what the issue was with the Lion Air.

"I think Boeing and the FAA [the US Federal Aviation Administration] are looking at some software modifications, which I understand may or may not have been made. Again, the problem with this is you're into the realm of speculation and we're not speculating."

Ryanair is due to take the delivery of one of the new 737 Max jets from Boeing next month, two in May and two in June.

He said he expected an outcome to the Ethiopian Airways crash before Ryanair took delivery of its first new aircraft.

"There will be some detailed feedback or at least an understanding of the causes in the next days or week or two," he said. "Our first delivery is at the end of April. Like all other airlines around the world, we will follow whatever guidance comes out from Boeing and EASA [the EU Aviation Safety Agency] on the European side."

Dublin-based Norwegian Air, which has 18 of the 737 Max in service, said it was "in close dialogue with Boeing and follow both their and the aviation authorities' instructions and recommendations".

Norwegian, which operates flights from Ireland to the United States, received its first delivery of the 737 Max 8 in June 2017.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said there were 13 Boeing 737 Max aircraft on the Irish aircraft register, a tally likely to include aeroplanes owned by leasing firms headquartered here. Irish regulators have not grounded any planes, saying they will follow a common European approach.

US and European Union authorities certify Boeing models, with a single certification in force across the EU, including Ireland.

"As safety is paramount to passenger and aircraft operating crews, the Irish Aviation Authority will issue notification to all operators of Irish registered Boeing 737Max as soon as any further information becomes available," it said.

In the US, the FAA said it was "closely monitoring developments" after the incident.

Ethiopian Airlines grounded its remaining Max 8 aircraft, although the cause of the crash was yet to be determined. Its chief executive, Tewolde Gebremariam, said the operator was "one of the safest" in the world, adding: "At this stage we cannot rule out anything."

Ethiopian Airlines said it had contacted the families of all victims, who came from 35 nations.

Irish Independent

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