Ryanair CEO says airline found parts missing from Boeing planes

Split screen image of a Boeing 737 MAX 8-200 from Ryanair is landing at Barcelona Airport and Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary at the Airlines for Europe Aviation Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on March 20. O'Leary expressed his concerns about missing parts found on Boeing aircraft delivered to Ryanair in media appearances. Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images & Simon Wohlfahrt/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The CEO of Ryanair, one of the largest low-cost carriers in the world, said the airline has been voicing its concerns over the quality of Boeing aircraft for the past 18 months, according to a video interview last week with CNN.

Michael O’Leary said that issues started arising in 2022 and 2023.

“We were finding little things like spanners under the floorboards, in some cases, seat handles missing, things like that,” O’Leary told CNN. (“Spanner” is another word for wrench.)

“This shows a lack of attention to detail, quality issues in Boeing,” the CEO added.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive officer of Ryanair Holdings, at the Airlines for Europe Aviation Summit in Brussels, Belgium, on March 20. Simon Wohlfahrt/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ryanair’s fleet of over 1,000 aircraft is made up almost exclusively of Boeing airplanes, apart from 27 Airbus A320s.

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O’Leary says the airline began noticing the issues with Boeing’s planes during the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns were easing. Ryanair has been consistently in contact with “Boeing at the most senior levels” to communicate its concerns, O’Leary added.

“We’ve been saying for 18 months, both publicly and privately to Boeing, that quality control post-COVID as they got back making aircraft has not been acceptable and needs to be improved.”

O’Leary added that Ryanair takes 48 hours to inspect newly delivered planes at the company’s hangars in Dublin.

“We’re not willing to put an aircraft into service at Ryanair unless we’ve fully satisfied that everything’s there and as it should be,” he said.

O’Leary echoed these same concerns about Boeing in an earlier press appearance.

In January, the CEO said a wrench was found under the floor of one plane during an inspection.

“It is not acceptable that aircraft get delivered at less than 100 per cent,” he said at the time.

The situation at Boeing seemed to improve, O’Leary said, adding that the 12 planes Boeing delivered to the airline between October and December were “the best deliveries we’ve taken from Boeing.”

O’Leary’s comments come as Boeing continues to be the subject of intense scrutiny from the public and transportation safety agencies after a series of high-profile incidents.

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The CEO of Boeing, David Calhoun, announced on Monday that he will be resigning at the end of year. The management shakeup also includes the head of the company’s commercial airplanes section, Stan Deal, who will retire and be replaced by chief operating officer Stephanie Pope, effective immediately.

Click to play video: 'Boeing CEO to step down as embattled plane maker faces quality and safety crisis'
Boeing CEO to step down as embattled plane maker faces quality and safety crisis

We welcome these much-needed management changes in Seattle,” O’Leary said in a statement after the news broke. Boeing’s largest manufacturing operation is in Seattle, Wash.

Boeing’s woes began on Jan. 5 when a door plug blew off the side of a Boeing 737 Max 9, operated by Alaskan Airlines, and ripped off a panel of the fuselage, leaving a large, gaping hole in the side of the plane while it was mid-air.

Click to play video: 'Door which flew off Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight found in Oregon backyard'
Door which flew off Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight found in Oregon backyard

Two months later, a tire fell off a Boeing jetliner shortly after takeoff at San Francisco International Airport. The tire smashed into cars and broke through a fence in a parking lot below.

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Just a handful of days after that, 50 people were injured on-board a Boeing Dreamliner when a “strong shake” followed by a sudden plunge in altitude caused people to “bounce off the roof,” as one passenger described.

Boeing is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Justice.

The planemaker has been blocked from increasing production of its flagship model series, the 737 MAX, until it can demonstrate it is “running a quality system safely,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said.

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