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Ryanair among airlines heavily exposed to potential MAX 8 grounding

The budget carrier currently has around 110 orders for the MAX 200, a high-capacity version of the MAX 8, with options on 100 more to help grow its fleet

TUI Boeing 737 MAX 8
TUI has around 15 737 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet

Budget carrier Ryanair Holdings PLC (LON:RYA) is one of the airlines that could be heavily exposed to a major grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft following two fatal crashes in recent months.

The airline currently has around 110 orders for the MAX 200, a high-capacity version of the MAX 8, with options on 100 more to help grow its fleet to 585 by 2024 from the current fleet of 400.

If the plane and its variants are forced to stay on the ground at the behest of aviation regulators, Ryanair’s growth strategy could be in jeopardy.

The crash of a MAX 8 in Ethiopia on Sunday, the second in six months after another aircraft came down in Indonesia in October killing all aboard, has already caused Chinese aviation regulators to ground nearly 100 of the aircraft.

The two fatal crashes also have many wondering just how the relatively new aircraft, which first flew in 2017, can fail with such frequency as well as the potential fallout should the model not be deemed fit to fly.

While the exact cause of the two crashes is currently unknown, Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris told Proactive that there could be a fault with the aircraft’s stability computers, which if true could cause “big trouble” for Boeing and send shockwaves through the industry.

“If that happens … we’re on a slippery slope,” Morris says, adding that there could also be a knock-on effect for airlines that could be forced to reschedule or change their orders for new aircraft.

As many carriers often order more new planes than the number of old models that need replacing to grow their fleets, a halt in 737 orders could slam the brakes on expansion.

“If 737 deliveries were disrupted even for a year that would cause chaos,” says Morris, with the contagion even spreading to aerospace engineering firms like Meggitt PLC (LON:MGGT) who manufacture engine components for the MAX range.

In late-afternoon trading Monday, Ryanair shares were down 2.2% at €11.9 while TUI shares were down 1.5% at 765.6p.

Quick facts: Ryanair

Price: 13.845 EUR

LSE:RYA
Market: LSE
Market Cap: €15.18 billion
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