Ryanair’s new “cuddly” approach to its customers is extending to MRO . . . at least, up to a point.
Speaking on the sidelines of the company’s annual results conference in London, Michael Hickey, group director of operations, told Aviation Week that the announced feature upgrades to the airline’s fleet, such as slim-line seats and Boeing Sky Interior, would be limited to new deliveries.
“We’re not going to retrofit any current aircraft,” he says. “It will only be a forward-fit change for new aircraft that get delivered by Boeing. That applies to the new seats as well, which will only be on the new -800s and MAXs; nothing on the existing fleet.”
With the fleet due to increase to 520 by 2024 from 380 today, Hickey says Ryanair will need more C-check facilities. This would be on top of the three current sites: the five-bay base in Prestwick, Scotland; the two-bay base in Kaunas, Lithuania; and the recently announced, yet-to-be-built, two-bay base in Wroclaw, Poland.
“We’re looking to add huge aircraft capacity over the years, so clearly we have to make sure we’re ahead of the curve in terms of supporting that growth,” he says. “We’ll probably be looking at two or three additional facilities over the next eight years, each starting out with two bays. That approach has worked very well for us so far, such as at Prestwick, so that’s how we’re going to continue.”
Hickey did not rule out upgrading current facilities instead of building new ones. “We’re quite comfortable with the idea of expanding any of our existing facilities. It’s unlikely we’d expand at Prestwick. If we did expand rather than build, we’d do it elsewhere, to give better pan-European support.”
While he stresses that heavy maintenance will remain in-house for the long term, he confirms Ryanair will be seeking an engine maintenance partner when its current contract with General Electric runs out in 2017. He says the airline is already in talks with possible suppliers, and that the next contract, like the current one, will be long-term. “That provides certainty to the supplier and certainty for us, and lets us build relationships with the supplier over time,” he adds.
He also notes that maintenance costs increased 16%, to €134.9 million ($149.6 million), during 2014, partly due to a €3.7 million credit from maintenance contract renegotiations in the prior year’s figures. The remainder he attributes to launching new bases, unscheduled maintenance costs and the strength of the pound to the euro. Balancing that out, favorable U.S.-dollar hedging will, he suggests, deliver significant aircraft, maintenance and fuel savings over the next two years.