Will The Boeing 737 MAX Return To Service Before Ryanair Makes More Cuts?


Ryanair is one of the largest low-cost carriers in the world. The only aircraft they operate are Boeing 737 family aircraft. Back when Ryanair ordered the next-generation Boeing 737 MAX, they anticipated using it to add capacity. However, in the wake of that grounding, Ryanair is examining their operations and they hope the 737 MAX returns to service before Ryanair has to make additional cuts. But, will that be possible?

Ryanair 737
Ryanair is hoping the 737 MAX returns to service in early 2020. Photo: Ryanair

Ryanair Boeing 737 MAX return to service

Ryanair is counting on a March 2020 return, according to a report from Aviation Week. This timeline is later than most airlines have anticipated. However, in these remarks, CEO Michael O’Leary made it clear that Ryanair expects the 737 MAX to return to North American operations by the end of this year. European operations, however, he expects to come a few months later.

Ryanair 737 MAX
Ryanair expects the 737 MAX to enter service in North America before the end of 2019. Photo: Ryanair

Boeing 737 MAX grounding constrains Ryanair growth

The grounding of the 737 MAX is negatively impacting the Irish LCC’s growth. To offset some of the financial hit, Ryanair has paused payments to Boeing for 737 MAX aircraft. Flight Global reports that Ryanair is experiencing some frustration. In the aftermath of Thomas Cook’s collapse, O’Leary expressed concern about Ryanair’s speed of expansion saying that he wants the airline “to be able to grow faster, not slower.”

Ryanair 737
Ryanair cannot expand as fast as they would like in the aftermath of Thomas Cook’s collapse due to the 737 MAX grounding. Photo: Ryanair

Ryanair has announced a new base despite the worldwide 737 MAX grounding. It could be that Ryanair would rather reshuffle bases in order to target more profitable markets come 2020.

Slow deliveries

CEO O’Leary also mentioned that Ryanair could be faced with additional job cuts and route suspensions if the 737 MAX returns to service later than anticipated.

Ryanair tail
Ryanair could be forced into additional cuts if the 737 MAX does not return to service in time. Photo: Ryanair

Even if the 737 MAX is cleared for a return to service sooner rather than later, it does not solve Ryanair’s capacity crunch issues. Boeing will not be able to meet the delivery timeline Ryanair anticipates.


O’Leary estimates that only about 30-40 737 MAX aircraft could enter their fleet in 2020, compared to the original 60. This is because not only is Boeing going to have to play catch-up but also because Ryanair says they cannot handle receiving more than eight new aircraft in a month.

Will Ryanair be forced into additional cuts?

This question depends on the speed at which regulatory agencies move. After one summer of the 737 MAX out of service, carriers are hopeful they will not undergo another shortage next summer. In fact, as carriers plan out their schedules, most have expected the 737 MAX to return to service by then. However, in the instance where the aircraft is not airworthy in time, airlines may have to make cuts.

Ryanair 737 MAX
Without the 737 MAX, Ryanair’s summer 2020 could be much bleaker than they anticipate. Photo: Ryanair

So far, regulatory agencies have not put a firm timeline in place for getting 737 MAX aircraft back in the air. Different agencies, as O’Leary alludes to, are taking different processes. For example, Europe and India want to conduct their own review of the 737 MAX before allowing the type’s return to service. Although, if the FAA is able to certify the 737 MAX by the end of the year or else early next year, it is likely that other agencies will also certify the aircraft shortly after the FAA if not simultaneously.

737 MAX interior
Delays in the 737 MAX return to service could send Ryanair into another summer with a capacity crunch. Photo: Ryanair


The simple answer to the question is we do not know. Mostly because this timeline depends heavily on regulatory agencies and the amount of time it takes Boeing and airlines to get everything back in order in relation to the 737 MAX.

Do you think the 737 MAX will return to service by early 2020? What do you think the answer to this question is? Let us know in the comments below!

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