Ryanair chief O’Leary: We are not in talks with Airbus or Boeing to buy ;

By Robert Wielaard, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ryanair chief says not negotiating for new planes

BRUSSELS — Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said Tuesday he’s not ready to buy new airplanes just yet.

He said his company meets twice a year with Airbus and Boeing, the world’s largest airplane makers, but called those meetings routine discussions.

“We are not in active negotiations” about buying aircraft, said O’Leary who sounded bearish about the recovery. “Right now we are at the bottom of the cycle,” he added.

The economic downturn has forced many airlines to trim fleets, filling the used planes market, but O’Leary said, “We are too big to be buying aircraft on the second-hand market.”

O’Leary urged the EU to end the right to strike for Europe’s air traffic controllers. Strikes in Belgium, France and Spain so far this year have forced Ryanair to cancel 1,400 flights, delay 12,000 others disrupting more than 2.5 million passengers, said O’Leary.

“It has to stop,” he said. He urged the EU to follow the US example of prohibiting air traffic controllers from striking.

He spoke to reporters in Brussels where he marked a record year for Ryanair at the Charleroi airport south of the Belgian capital and downplayed media speculation about aircraft purchases.

Ryanair expects to fly 73.5 million passengers in 2010, up from 65.6 million from last year. By 2015, it expects 100 million passengers a year. To meet that growth, O’Leary said his fleet will grow to some 300 planes by 2013 and about 450 by the end of 2015.

Dublin-based Ryanair’s flies 1,200 routes across Europe for fares as low as €8 ($11). In the past decade it has become Europe’s largest low-cost carrier and one of the largest airlines in Europe in terms of passengers.

In recent months, air traffic controllers have walked off the job repeatedly.

“It is ridiculous that Belgian, French and Spanish controllers can repeatedly strike without any financial penalty while airlines… absorb the costs of these unnecessary disruptions,” said O’Leary.

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