737 Max will be a 'game changer' but there's a risk of more delays, Ryanair CEO says

Key Points
  • Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said he was confident the Boeing 737 Max aircraft is perfectly safe.
  • He attributed the delays in its return to service to the process of ensuring that pilots are familiar with the new software system.
Boeing 737 Max will be a gamechanger for Ryanair over next decade, Michael O'Leary says

The Boeing 737 Max aircraft has the potential to be a "game changer" despite its delayed return to service following safety concerns, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said Monday.

Speaking to CNBC, O'Leary said the Irish budget airline is not expecting its first delivery of the 737 Max until March or April 2020, adding that time is running out to have the aircraft available for the summer.

The first of Ryanair's 737 Max orders was due in January, but the embattled aircraft has faced repeated delays. Speaking in a video presentation Monday morning, O'Leary said the carrier had now reduced its expectation of 30 737 Max aircraft being delivered for the summer of 2020 down to 20, adding that there is a "real risk of none," Reuters reported.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told a Congressional hearing last week that the manufacturer has fixed the aircraft's maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) to allow pilots to override it. The original MCAS system had been at the center of safety concerns which arose after Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes killed a combined 346 passengers and flight crew.

"There have been two tragic accidents with the 737 Max — the MCAS software system wasn't well explained by Boeing, I think, to pilots generally who were flying the aircraft, but it has been flying successfully in North America for over 12 months without any incident," O'Leary told CNBC.

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"The MCAS is now well-known by pilots, and we are the only airline with a Max simulator here in Europe. We put most of our senior pilots, the training pilots through it, they love the aircraft, they love the MCAS system once everybody understands what it does."

O'Leary said he was confident the aircraft is perfectly safe, and attributed the delays in its return to service to the process of ensuring that pilots are familiar with the new software system. He contended that despite the two tragedies involving the 737 Max, it has "never been safer to fly."

"The manufacturers have a duty when they produce new products, new software, to educate the airlines and pilots as to the existence of that software and what it does, but this is still a great aircraft," he said.

"This is an aircraft that has 4% more seats, 16% lower fuel consumption, it is going to be the game changer for us for the next 10 years, so we can't wait to see it back in the air, flying safely and flying millions of people on an annual basis."

Ryanair on Monday reported post-tax profits of 1.15 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for the six months from April to September, slightly better than expected. It also narrowed its full-year profit forecast from 750-950 million euros to 800-900 million euros.