Ryanair orders 100 Boeing 737 MAXs – USA Today

One of 300 737s in Ryanair's fleet lifts off from 08R at Gatwick. Photo – OPShots Contributor: Mark Thomas

One of 300 737s in Ryanair’s fleet lifts off from 08R at Gatwick. Photo – OPShots Contributor: Mark Thomas

Irish low-cost-carrier Ryanair announced a firm order for 100 Boeing 737 jets in New York on Monday. The airline also added options for an additional 100 jets. The firm deal would be worth $11 billion at list prices, though carriers typically receive significant discounts.

“Ryanair is proud and honored to become the lead operator of Boeing’s ‘game-changer’ 737 MAX 200 aircraft which will expand our fleet to 520 aircraft by 2024,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says in a statement announcing the deal.

Ryanair will use the order to grow its fleet to 520 aircraft by 2024, up from the current 300. The extra jets will fuel Ryanair’s planned capacity growth and expansion. It projects carrying 150 million passengers by 2024, up from 82 million currently.

Monday’s order comprises Boeing’s new 737 MAX 200 jet, which formally launched today with the order. The airplane is an updated, high-density version of Boeing’s current-generation 737-800. Due to launch in 2017, the airplane is expected to be significantly more fuel efficient than today’s version, with new engines and design changes, according to Boeing.

Yet, until Monday, the world’s largest operator of the 737-800 had not signed up for any variety of the MAX. It was believed that part of Ryanair’s hesitation stemmed from its desire to squeeze even more people onto its planes.

O’Leary confirmed that Monday, saying: “We’ve been pushing Boeing for the last 10 years to get 200 seats in the aircraft.”

Low-cost carriers like Ryanair depend on densely packed cabins to keep prices low and operating costs down.

O’Leary got his wish in the MAX 200. While initially capped at 189 people, the same limit as the 737-800 it will replace, Boeing upped the jet’s maximum capacity to 200 people earlier this year at the Farnborough Airshow. While O’Leary admitted he had considered the A320neo from rival Airbus, Boeing’s increase of 11 seats proved to be the clincher.

That increase, of which Ryanair will tap an additional eight seats for 197 total, will translate into $1 million per aircraft per year in additional revenue, according to O’Leary.

While more passengers squeezed into the same space likely will bode well for Ryanair’s bottom line, the carrier’s future passengers may not be as pleased. Already subjected to one of the lower leg-room allowances in the industry, the airline’s MAX 200s will maintain the current amount of “seat pitch” at 30 inches. Ryanair says the airplanes will feature Boeing’s Sky Interior, which improves head-room on the airplane and adds features like LED mood-lighting.

The first of the airplanes is expected to be delivered in 2019. As of today, Ryanair has 380 737s on order. It’s most recent major order, before Monday, was for 175 737-800 jets placed in 2013. Those deliveries begin Tuesday.

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