Image Courtesy of Boeing

PARIS – European ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC), Ryanair, placed a firm order for 10 additional 737 MAX 200 jets Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, growing its order book to 110 737 MAX 200s with 100 additional purchase options.

Ryanair also has 65 Boeing 737-800s remaining on order and operates an all 737-800 fleet of 397 aircraft. The order is worth $1.1 billion at current list prices.

Ryanair was the launch customer back in 2014 for the 737 MAX 200, a nickname for the 737 MAX 8 certified for a high-density configuration of up to seats, though Ryanair will actually operate its MAX 200s with 197 seats to be precise, in a single-class configuration.

“We are pleased to announce this purchase of 10 additional Boeing 737 ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft, on top of our existing firm order for 100 737 MAXs, with a further 100 options remaining,” said Ryanair’s Chief Operations Officer, Mick Hickey.

“This all-new MAX 737 aircraft has 8 more seats than our current 189 seat Boeing 737-800s and incorporates the latest technology engines and winglets, which reduces fuel consumption and noise emissions, ensuring we remain Europe’s greenest, cleanest airline. Ryanair is proud to partner with Boeing and has operated an all-Boeing fleet since 1994.”

“The 737 MAX with 197 seats provides Ryanair with the perfect solution for its additional capacity requirements as it strives to carry 200 million passengers per year by the middle of the next decade,” said Ihssane Mounir, senior vice president, Global Sales & Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The 737 family has been the foundation on which Ryanair has revolutionized low-cost travel in Europe and we are honored that this iconic operator continues to grow in partnership with Boeing.”

Ryanair is Europe’s largest airline, carrying 120 million passengers last year across 1,800 daily flights to more than 200 destinations. It is the largest Boeing 737-800 customer in the world and is all but certain to order more 737 MAX jets as its MAX 200 order book is barely sufficient to replace a third of the existing fleet.

The carrier also tends to cycle aircraft in and out of its fleet very quickly (selling aircraft within 10-12 years of delivery), so it could very well have a need for 600+ 737 MAX jets when all is said and done, including replacement and growth.

The real question is whether Ryanair will opt for the larger 737 MAX 10, which Boeing launched on Day 1 of PAS 2017 with more than 240 orders from 10 customers. The larger 737 MAX jet would offer the best operating economics in the Boeing 737 MAX family, and Ryanair certainly has enough high-volume routes at this point to be able to fill 100-150 737 MAX 10s profitably year-round.

The one caveat for Ryanair is that the 737 MAX 200 basically maximizes the number of passengers per flight attendant on its planes (each flight attendant can support a maximum of 50 passengers) while the 737 MAX 10 falls 20 short of that figure at a theoretical maximum single class capacity of 230 seats. Perhaps in Ryanair’s economic modeling, that counts for more and as a result, the carrier is less enamored with the 737 MAX 10.

It could also be that Ryanair wants to maintain its single variant fleet with the 737-800 and then the MAX 8. This, however, doesn’t make as much sense, as it will have to operate the 737-800 and 737 MAX 8 simultaneously for years, which defeats the purpose of a single variant offering (the MAX 8 and the MAX 10 are as similar as the MAX 8 and 737-800).

In the end, we do expect Ryanair to buy the 737 MAX 10, but it will not happen immediately.