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Could Ryanair be an early buyer of the Comac C919 narrowbodies?Ryanair has been looking, for years, for a new supply of cheap aircraft. Having built a business out of using its large Boeing 737 order to offer cheap tickets to customers, Ryanair now is starting to have to look for a new supply of aircraft as it gradually nears the end of its order backlog. But with 737 orders healthy, Boeing has been unwilling to give away the aircraft at the rock-bottom price Ryanair had previously secured.That has had Michael O'Leary, the low-fare airline's owner, looking for a potential new supplier, or at least an appropriate stalking horse to force Boeing to play ball. There's only been one problem: Airbus has not been willing to play along. Airbus COO for customers and chief salesman, John Leahy, has repeatedly rebuffed O'Leary, arguing the Irishman was not serious about an order and just wanted to get Boeing to lower his price.Given that background, O'Leary appears to have found a new player. The airline has announced an agreement with China's Comac to "participate in discussions" around development of the C919 airliner.O'Leary says "Ryanair will have a fleet of over 300 Boeing aircraft by 2013, and we remain in continuing discussions with both Boeing and now COMAC for a replacement aircraft order of at least 200 aircraft." Although the airline's model has been to standardize on one type, he adds that "Ryanair can become a two aircraft operator carrier, as long as the economies achieved by our current Boeing 737-800 fleet can be matched or lowered by a similar sized order from a different manufacturer." He adds that the "announcement won’t affect our long standing relationship with Boeing, we look forward to working closely with Comac to promote more competition among aircraft manufacturers, which can only be good for promoting competition between airlines and lowering the cost of air travel for consumers all across Europe towards the end of the decade."Whether O'Leary is serious is another matter. His track record would not suggest so, but the prospect of a large western customer signing up for its aircraft is probably too much of a temptation for Comac not to play along with his games.
tw99, pas11, Ryanair
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