By Patricia Vicente Rua
LISBON (Reuters) – Ryanair is concerned by shortcomings identified by U.S. regulators in a report into the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 accident, and increased regulatory supervision is set to “slow things down” at Boeing, CEO Michael O’Leary said on Wednesday.
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers and one of Boeing’s main customers, has ordered over 350 MAX jets in recent years, but has no MAX 9 aircraft.
A door plug that flew off an Alaska Airlines MAX 9 jet mid-flight on Jan. 5 appeared to be missing four key bolts, according to a preliminary report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board released on Tuesday.
“I think we’re concerned because it highlights, you know, poor production quality with Boeing… but we don’t think it affects our Boeing 737 fleet or the MAX 8 that we operate,” CEO Michael O’Leary told Reuters on the sidelines of an event in Lisbon on Wednesday.
He said the last 12 aircraft Ryanair received in October-December showed quality improvements from earlier in the year, “but Boeing have clearly more to do”.
“But there’s no doubt that the increased supervision by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in Seattle will slow things down. We’re just not sure yet whether it will affect our deliveries between now and the end of June,” he added.
Boeing is “taking action on a comprehensive plan to improve our quality and delivery performance” in the aftermath of the Alaska Airlines incident and after a supplier discovered mis-drilled holes on some fuselages, a spokesperson said.
“Ryanair is a valued customer and we are working closely with them to address their concerns,” the spokesperson said.
O’Leary also welcomed Wednesday’s ruling by Europe’s second highest court on Ryanair’s second challenge against a 3.4-billion-euro ($3.7 billion) Dutch bailout for Air France-KLM’s Dutch unit, which O’Leary said proved the EU competition authorities’ incompetence.
The Luxembourg-based General Court annulled the European Commission’s revised 2021 decision approving the state aid, saying that competition regulators had erred in not taking into account other beneficiaries within the airline group.
“The competition authorities in Europe have proved themselves to be spectacularly incompetent and unable to oversee fair competition in Europe. And we think that Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner for competition, should resign.”
The EU executive said it would study the ruling and reflect on possible next steps.
(Reporting by Patrícia Vicente Rua; Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Conor Humphries, David Evans and Nick Zieminski)