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Ryanair would consider acquiring Airbus A320neo and A321neo jets for its newly-established Maltese subsidiary Lauda Europe, in case Airbus makes the right offer, Group Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said during a virtual interview at the WTM London trade fair.

"I am still hopeful and still optimistic that we can reach a deal with Airbus on price. The challenge though is and this is one for Airbus, is they’ve got to be able to match Boeing's pricing... And if it doesn’t match what we have on Boeing, then you know, regrettably, I think we’ll finish up getting rid of the Airbuses out of Lauda altogether," he said.

The Maltese carrier currently operates a fleet of 34 used A320-200s taken over from its predecessor, which also added them as pre-owned aircraft. It is the only Airbus operator in Ryanair Group, which also comprises B737-800-only carriers Ryanair, Ryanair UK, Malta Air, and Polish subsidiary Buzz.

When taking over Lauda, then known as LaudaMotion, Ryanair was planning to use the Austrian carrier as leverage to negotiate better prices with OEMs, shedding its image of a Boeing-only operator.

However, O'Leary has now acknowledged that after having developed a very close relationship with Boeing, the LCC would struggle to get similarly good deals from Airbus. Ryanair Group operates a total of 603 B737-800s, as well as a single B737-700 used for corporate charters. The group has 135 B737-8-200s on firm order from Boeing with deliveries expected to commence next year, following the recertification of the B737 MAX family.

Meanwhile, in another panel during the ACI Europe annual meeting, O'Leary said Ryanair was eager to expand at "progressive" airports which offer good incentives for traffic growth in the post-COVID period. He expects low-cost traffic will return to the pre-COVIDs level by Summer 2022, although prices will take longer to rebound. He underlined that among the airports that Ryanair is looking at as potential bases include several Italian gateways, such as Turin, Venice Treviso, and Verona. Ryanair already has 16 bases in Italy and the country is its largest market with a 22.1% share by departure capacity in the LCC's current network.

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