February 27, 2024

A blurry photo of a Ryanair plane in the air.

Unshakeable confidence.
Photo: Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Ordinarily, a plane’s doors coming off mid-flight is the kind of event that shakes the confidence of airline CEOs, who need customers to feel safe in order to make money. But Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary thinks Boeing’s issues with its 737 Max 9 aircraft are a temporary problem.

“Boeing are still making great aircraft,” O’Leary told investors on a Monday (Jan. 29) earnings call. “They always have, and they always will. But quality does need to be improved.”

That message of support from a big customer comes at a difficult time for Boeing, which is struggling with the fallout from a fuselage breakage on an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 shortly after takeoff earlier this month. That led to the grounding of all Max 9s—and the discovery that lots of the jets had loose bolts that could have also led to problems.

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O’Leary hasn’t always had such kind words for Boeing and its CEO, Dave Calhoun. In 2021, when a previous round of 737 Max groundings meant Ryanair had to wait a bit longer for delivery of planes it had ordered, he said that Calhoun needed to “get his shit together” and that his company needed “a boot in the arse” to speed things up.

Later that year, O’Leary also called Boeing “delusional” for thinking it could justify higher prices in the face of its struggles. As recently as October, he was threatening to scrap orders for the next Boeing plane, the 737 Max 10, if the manufacturer couldn’t resolve its issues with timeliness.

Staying optimistic on Boeing’s future

O’Leary is still looking forward to taking delivery of his company’s allotment of 737 Max 10s, which he praised for their combination of higher passenger capacity and lower fuel costs. Always looking for a way to save money for his famously low-price airline, he even promised to snap up any planes his US rivals might be too scared to take to the sky.

“If some of the American airlines don’t want to take those aircraft, Ryanair will take those aircraft,” he said.

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