DUBLIN, IRELAND — Irish budget airline Ryanair has inked a groundbreaking multibillion-dollar agreement to purchase up to 300 Boeing aircraft, marking a significant expansion of its fleet and highlighting the resurgence of the travel industry. 

Valued at over $40 billion at current list prices, the deal for 737 Max-10 aircraft, which includes 150 options, follows the collapse of negotiations over 18 months ago due to a pricing dispute. Deliveries are scheduled between 2027 and 2033.

The order signals a vote of confidence in Boeing's largest 737 Max variant and underscores airlines' willingness to invest in new aircraft as travel rebounds after the Covid pandemic. Soaring demand has led to supply chain issues, leaving Boeing and competitor Airbus scrambling to deliver jets to major customers. Ryanair anticipates a small number of flight cancellations this summer due to a short-term production issue with the Max.

Ryanair announced on Tuesday that the substantial order would enable an 80% increase in traffic over the next decade, projecting passenger numbers to grow from 168 million in March this year to 300 million by March 2034. The airline plans to replace 150 older Boeing 737NG planes with the new aircraft, generating over 10,000 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew, and engineers.

Despite his previous criticisms of Boeing and its leadership, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary expressed satisfaction with the recent negotiations, which progressed faster than expected. He cited the industry's recovery as a key driver for the deal, noting that delays could have resulted in later deliveries in 2028 or 2029.

O'Leary also stated that the deal would facilitate lower fares in Europe, as the chosen Max variant boasts 21% more seats and consumes 20% less fuel than the airline's existing 737NGs. Ryanair CFO Neil Sorahan said the new aircraft would reduce costs by 10%, excluding fuel, compared to the older 737NGs still in service. 

This cost advantage will promote further growth, with Ryanair potentially carrying 30% of all European short-haul passengers if it reaches its target of 300 million passengers in the 2030s.

Ryanair previously ordered 75 aircraft from Boeing during the pandemic's peak in December 2020 at unbeatable prices. Sorahan admitted the airline would have preferred greater discounts for the latest order but expressed satisfaction with the final deal.

European airlines are gearing up for a strong summer season, reporting robust sales in recent months and minimal impact from regional economic challenges. Ryanair has spearheaded the industry's recovery from the pandemic, expanding its schedules and entering new markets as financially weaker competitors scaled back or failed. The airline forecasts an after-tax profit of €1.3 billion to €1.4 billion for its financial year ending in March.