Ryanair's attempts to face off Boeing and Airbus in a bidding war over a lucrative multibillion-dollar, 400-jet order may have come a cropper, with the European manufacturer categorically stating it will not be interested in making a sales pitch. Airbus is currently the world's largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft – apposition it exchanges with its American rival Boeing frequently.
John Leahy, Airbus chief commercial officer, said: "We are not in discussions with Ryanair about aircraft. That is on the record. We don't have plans to enter a sales campaign with Ryanair, which would be very expensive and very time-consuming."
Ryanair is set to become of Europe's biggest short-haul airline by number of passengers carried and operates an all-Boeing fleet of 737 short-haul jets. It has also run up a reputation as a shrewd negotiator of large orders, securing a handsome deal with Boeing for more than 100 aircraft in January 2002, after involving it and Airbus in a bidding contest.
The Irish carrier announced this week that it was in early talks with Boeing and Airbus about an order for 300-400 short-haul jets, which will be one of the biggest orders for new aircraft in the aviation industry. Michael Cawley, Ryanair deputy chief executive and chief operating officer, said he expected the order to be placed within 24 months.
Earlier, Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive, had visited Airbus headquarters in Toulouse to present its plans and expectations to the manufacturer.
The unexpected response from Airbus to its overture - that it is not interested in bidding at the prices Ryanair is expecting, has certainly stumped industry experts if not the carrier. Manufacturers are not expected to snub such large orders, particularly when times are bad and orders difficult to come by.
Clearly, Ryanair was seeking to repeat its coup of January 2002, when it placed a massive order for 100 aircraft and a further 50 options with Boeing after facing off both manufacturers in a massive bidding war. The sale was clinched at a time when the aviation industry was last experiencing the throes of an industry-wide recession.
Airbus is the commercial aircraft division of EADS, Europe's leading aerospace and defence group. It has lately been assigned additional responsibility of getting the groups' military transport and refueling tanker project, the A400M, on track.
Ryanair operates a single type fleet of 181 Boeing 737-800s, which is due to rise to 292 by March 2012, based on its existing firm orders. The additional orders of 300-400 aircraft are intended to replace older jets and allow for expansion through the next decade.