Great Britain

Ryanair boss says no refunds if passengers refuse to fly on Boeing 737 Max

As Boeing winds down production of the 737 Max aircraft, the Ryanair boss has said passengers will “love them” when the planes are finally flying again.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Europe’s biggest budget airline, has ordered 210 of a special version of the Max, seating eight extra passengers.

None has so far been delivered, as the Boeing jet is grounded worldwide.

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The no-fly stipulation was declared worldwide after a second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max. In March 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa after anti-stall software installed in the flight control system was triggered erroneously by a faulty instrument.

The tragedy was chillingly similar to the loss of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October 2018, which cost 189 lives.

Boeing had initially predicted that software fixes would enable the 737 Max to be flying by the end of 2019. But as that hope faded, airlines have gradually removed it from the schedules in early 2020.

Michael O’Leary told The Independent: “As every day passes, it keeps moving backwards. 

“We originally hoped we’d get 30 aircraft for the summer, then it was 20, now it’s only 10.

“If there really is more, another one month’s delay, it looks much more likely we will get zero aircraft in advance of the June-July-August summer peak.”

But when the Boeing 737 Max is flying for Ryanair, anxious passengers who do not wish to travel on it will have no advance warning.

“You won’t know, because on average you book seats on Ryanair six to eight weeks in advance of travel,” said Mr O’Leary.

“We only do the aircraft allocations the night before, because we don’t know which aircraft is where.

“During the first year, you’ll have a 10 per cent chance you’ll be on a Max aircraft.

“Will anyone know or care? Frankly, I don’t think they will.”

While some US carriers have said that travellers who discover they are booked on flight will be able to switch, no such option exists for Ryanair passengers.

“You have the right to get off the plane if you want,” said Mr O’Leary. “But will you be getting refund of your ticket? No, you won’t.”

While airlines may give indications of the plane types they intend to deploy on specific flights, they all retain the right to replace them with a different model.

The Ryanair chief executive said: “The Max when they come back will be the most tested, the most audited, the most secure, the most safe aircraft ever delivered.

“The pilots are all well aware of what the MCAS system does now.

“The fact remains that these are brilliant aircraft. Customers are going to love them.

“They’re good for the environment as well. And they’ll be offering the cheapest air fares in Europe.”