Ryanair to cancel some winter flights amid Boeing 737 Max grounding

Ryanair is to cancel flights and close “loss-making” airport bases from November onwards. Some passengers who have already booked tickets for the winter will need to find alternative flights.

Europe’s biggest budget airline says the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max has forced it to “slow capacity growth” for the coming winter, as well as in summer 2020.

Unlike some observers, Ryanair believes the jet will be back in passenger service before the end of the year. But the airline has ordered a unique, high-capacity version of the plane, known as the Max 200. Ryanair estimates the variant will require two more months before it is certified to fly.

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Ryanair has 210 of the new Max variant of the jet on order. It was hoping to start flying them in May 2019, but none had been delivered before the aircraft type was grounded in March.

Two fatal accidents involving the Boeing 737 Max, in October 2018 and March 2019, killed a total of 346 people.

Investigations revealed that pilots on both aircraft fought vainly against an anti-stall system known as MCAS, which was forcing the nose of the aircraft down based on the incorrect readings from a sensor.

Boeing is currently working on safety improvements, with regulators worldwide closely scrutinising the changes. 

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said: “Boeing is hoping that a certification package will be submitted to regulators by September with a return to service shortly thereafter.

“We believe it would be prudent to plan for that date to slip by some months, possibly as late as December.

“Ryanair expects that the Max 200 will be approved for flight services within two months of the Max return to service.”

The airline now hopes to receive its first Max 200 aircraft in either January or February 2020.

How to tell if you’re on a Boeing 737 Max

But Ryanair cannot take delivery of the backlog all at once. It can accept between six and eight new aircraft each month. 

The airline says: “This shortfall in aircraft deliveries will necessitate some base cuts and closures for summer 2020, but also for the winter 2019 schedule.

“We are starting a series of discussions with our airports to determine which of Ryanair’s underperforming or loss-making bases should suffer these short term cuts and/or closures from November 2019.”

In the winter of 2017-18, Ryanair cancelled thousands of planned flights due to a shortage of pilots.

Passengers whose flights are cancelled can ask the airline to book them on alternative departures – on other carriers if Ryanair has no suitable options.

The airline said the slow deliveries will cut Ryanair’s summer 2020 growth rate from 7 per cent to 3 per cent.

“Ryanair will continue to work with Boeing and EASA to recover these delivery delays during the winter of 2020, so that we can restore our growth to normal levels in summer 2021.”

Pictures taken at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, show new Ryanair aircraft badged as “737 8200” rather than “737 Max”.

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