Skift Take

Michael O’Leary’s public condemnation of Boeing’s corporate culture and recent changes to its 737 Max program will likely heap further pressure on the planemaker.

The chief executive of Ryanair has slammed Boeing’s approach to the 737 Max crisis.

Speaking to Skift on Wednesday, Michael O’Leary called out what he described as “corporate bullsh*t” at the U.S. planemaker. 

In recent weeks, O’Leary has publicly endorsed Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and CFO Brian West. He previously described the pair as “a good team” who are “on the right track”.

Asked by Skift if he had confidence in Stan Deal, the President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the Ryanair chief said: “Do I have confidence in Stan Deal is the wrong question. I think Stan Deal has to demonstrate that he is capable of turning around the operation in Seattle.”

O’Leary acknowledged that Deal “is a very good sales guy”, but suggested that a different approach might be needed: “What Boeing needs in Seattle is not necessarily a sales guy. They need someone who is going to sit there on a daily basis and do the grind. [Asking] what’s the delay, what’s the problem, and fixing the supply chain.”

“Boeing needs leadership. Stan [Deal] needs to get his finger out. He needs to sit in Seattle on a daily basis producing aircraft. They don’t need sales, they’re fully sold out until 2030 anyway.”

For his part, Deal has previously said the company was “deeply sorry for the significant disruption” caused by the recent 737 Max issues.

While he is no stranger to controversy, O’Leary’s public intervention remains notable. With almost 700 Boeing jets in its fleet, the Ryanair Group is the planemaker’s largest customer in Europe.

Ryanair Chief Questions Boeing Approach

O’Leary also had criticism of recent personnel changes at Boeing. Last month the company removed executive Ed Clark, the head of its 737 Max program. This followed the serious incident onboard an Alaska Airlines plane on January 5 when a door plug blew off mid-flight.

Following Clark’s departure, Katie Ringgold, who had previously been vice president of 737 Max deliveries, took on his former brief. The company also created a new executive position for Elizabeth Lund overseeing quality at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. 

While O’Leary had praise for the individuals, he was scathing of the broader strategy: “They’ve appointed two very good ladies there but even that smacks of corporate bullsh*t. You’re putting someone in charge of 737s and someone in charge of safety.”

“Why isn’t the person in charge of the 737s in charge of f**king safety as well? Boeing loves talking this corporate bullsh*t that they have a leadership team of 3,500 people, but that’s a committee designing a f**king camel.”

In a statement Boeing said: “We are squarely focused on implementing changes to strengthen quality across our production system and taking the necessary time to deliver high quality airplanes that meet all regulatory requirements. We continue to stay in close contact with our customers about these issues and our actions to address them.”

Ryanair currently operates the older Boeing 737-800, as well as a newer high-capacity variant of the 737 Max 8. It also has orders for the largest Max 10, however it is not due to receive the plane until 2027.

O’Leary is known for speaking his mind. The Ryanair boss recently concluded a high-profile spat with OTAs, which he described as “online pirates”.

Earlier this month, O’Leary said he was “very disappointed” with additional delays to deliveries of 737 Max jets. However, he confirmed that “Boeing continues to have Ryanair’s wholehearted support.”


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: air safety, airlines, Boeing, boeing 737 max, Michael O'Leary, ryanair

Photo credit: Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary speaking at a company event. Ryanair

Up Next

Loading next stories