Following approval in the United States last week, the European Union’s airline safety watchdog has cleared a variant of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 to fly in EU skies. EASA certified the 737 MAX 8-200 on Tuesday. That will be welcome news for the aircraft type’s biggest customer, Dublin-based Ryanair.
Just in time for Ryanair, EASA certifies the MAX 8-200
At 39.52 meters, Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 can fly 189 passengers up to 6,509 kilometers. Based on the 737 MAX 8 airframe, the 737 MAX 8-200 can accommodate over 200 seats by incorporating a mid-exit door, thereby increasing the exit limit. The MAX 8-200 also promises to have operating costs 5% lower than the MAX 8 and substantially reduced emissions. Combined with the extra revenue from the extra seats, the MAX 8-200 is potentially the perfect Ryanair plane.
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary certainly thinks so. Back in 2014, when Ryanair first ordered the MAX 8-200s, thereby becoming the launch customer for the plane, O’Leary called the aircraft type a gamechanger.
Late last year, just after the FAA cleared the MAX family of aircraft to fly again in the United States, Ryanair gave Boeing a big boost by ordering more MAX 8-200s. In December, Ryanair added 75 more planes to the original order. The total number of MAX 8-200s now coming to Ryanair is 210. The first is due this month.
“We hope to take delivery of at least 50 of these aircraft in 2021, subject to Boeing recovering its manufacturing output to deliver them,” said Michael O’Leary in December. “We are working closely with Boeing and our senior pilot professionals to assist our regulator EASA to certify these aircraft in Europe.”
Adding additional exit doors boosts MAX 8 capacity on variant
EASA’s tick of approval came just in time for Ryanair. On Tuesday, April 6, EASA quietly revised its certification documentation for the MAX family of planes, adding the MAX 8-200 to the approved list. The safety agency capped passenger numbers at 202 and allowing for five crew, the total number of people now permitted to fly on the MAX 8-200 is 207. This is due to EASA’s Environmental Control System ventilation rate per person onboard.
Boeing isn’t increasing the size of the MAX 8. Rather, the aircraft manufacturer is adding an extra set of emergency exits behind the wing. Because of this, the plane needed further certification above the MAX 8 model it is based on.
Is now the right time for Ryanair to take new planes?
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary is well-known for his bullish outlook. When placing the most recent MAX 8-200 order, the CEO cited his airline’s role in leading Europe’s aviation and tourism industry out of the travel downturn. But Europe, Ryanair’s heartland, remains among the world’s worst-performing airline markets. OAG data has seat availability in March down 43.7% in Eastern Europe compared to March 2020, and seat availability in Western Europe down 68.4%.
Over the first week in April, Ryanair is operating an average of 315 flights a day. In comparison, over the same week in April 2019, Ryanair operated an average of 2,331 flights a day. The number of inter-European flights is down 70% compared to the same time in 2019.
These kinds of numbers are not new. The last 12 months have been a statistical horror show for most airlines, including Ryanair. Despite this, Ryanair continues to roll out new routes. Over the northern summer, Ryanair aims to run around 2,300 weekly flights across 480 routes, including 26 new routes to popular holiday destinations in France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
With EASA greenlighting the MAX 8-200s and the first due soon, many of Ryanair’s destinations will start seeing the new planes. Whether the timing is right for Ryanair is another issue.
What do you think? Is this the right time for Ryanair to start accepting the MAX 8-200s? Post a comment and let us know.