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Ryanair says aircraft problems could push summer fares up 10%

<span>Chief executive Michael O’Leary said Ryanair was negotiating compensation with Boeing for the delivery delays.</span><span>Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters</span>
Chief executive Michael O’Leary said Ryanair was negotiating compensation with Boeing for the delivery delays.Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Peak summer air fares in Europe are likely to rise again this year by up to 10%, according to Ryanair, as problems with aircraft at Boeing and Airbus leave customers scrambling for seats.

The increase would come on top of the sharp post-pandemic rise in holiday flight prices last year when pent-up demand met limited capacity in European airlines.

The Irish budget airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said Ryanair may yet have to trim its summer schedules, which were built around the expected delivery of 50 of the 57 Boeing Max 737-8200s it has on order.

Quality control issues at the US manufacturer – vividly highlighted by the blowout of a part of the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines Max-9 in midflight last month – have led to a slowdown in production and deliveries.

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O’Leary said: “Our summer 2024 schedule was on sale predicated on getting 50 aircraft. If we only get 40 to 45 by the end of March we might need to announce some schedule cuts … mostly on routes with high daily frequencies.

“Even our growth is going to be constrained and that leads to a higher fare environment in Europe this summer overall.

“Our average fares in summer 2023 rose 17%. We don’t think we’ll see that much – we’re budgeting for 5-10% fare rise.”

O’Leary also said fares would be higher partly because of issues with Pratt & Whitney engines on Airbus A320 planes, forcing some to be grounded at airlines including Wizz Air and Lufthansa: “EU shorthaul capacity, which is operating only at 90% of pre-Covid, will be constrained all summer long. Most of Europe is an A320 and Airbus marketplace,” he said.

“If we could get all 57 Boeing deliveries before June we would make out like bandits all summer long, because we have airports at the moment beating the door down to us, offering us incentives, because someone else is taking aircraft away.”

The Ryanair chief executive said he nonetheless agreed with the US Federal Aviation Administration to limit production rates at Boeing until recent problems had been resolved.

He said that the airline had discovered “silly, small things” during inspections of recent aircraft deliveries. He said they would lift floorboards and find a rag or a spanner under them. “It’s indicative of a poor approach to quality control on the line in Wichita or Seattle and Boeing need to fix it.”

He said the manufacturer would soon get “out of the eye of the storm”, but added: “At the moment, they’re sloppy. Quality and production standards have slipped, and if you’re spending $100m on a plane, it should be in impeccable, pristine condition.”

Ryanair was still negotiating compensation for delivery delays, he said.

Boeing said: “We are communicating with customers that some delivery schedules may change as we take the necessary time to make sure that every airplane we deliver is high quality and meets all customer and regulatory requirements.

“We deeply regret the impact this is having on our valued customer Ryanair. We’re working to address their concerns and taking action on a comprehensive plan to strengthen 737 quality and delivery performance.”