a plane on the tarmac

There’s low, then there’s Ryanair low?

After system failures doomed two Boeing 737-MAX aircraft, causing the untimely death of 345 souls and unimaginable grief, shock and horror to travellers around the world, people are understandably reluctant to jump back on board the short haul juggernaut. Airlines have shifted or cancelled orders, and planes remain grounded until safety can be guaranteed.

While details remain to be seen, it appears Ryanair may be dealing with the situation in the most disingenuous way possible, simply rebranding the planes as something else, to make passengers believe they’re not actually flying a 737-MAX. They’re doing it with paint.

To be clear, no 737-MAX aircraft are flying today, including with Ryanair, but when they do return to the skies after the latest safety woes, Ryanair’s will be harder to spot.

On almost every plane you’ve ever flown, somewhere along the side or the belly you will find the model type written in bold lettering. In the case of Ryanair, you’ve traditionally seen Boeing 737-800 written somewhere near the cockpit, to the left below the large Ryanair logo.

When airlines received the 737-MAX, that’s exactly what it said on the side: 737-MAX.

a plane on the runway at nightTo most eyes, the 737-800’s currently flying today look identical to the MAX, and the only way to know you’re not on one is that the plane is currently grounded. Passengers can also check Google Flights before they book, which shows the aircraft type for specific dates and flights. Let’s be honest though, most passengers don’t.

Would a passenger be alarmed if they rocked up to a plane, not thinking about model type and saw the lettering 737-MAX? You bet, and that’s why Ryanair is hiding it.

Aviation geeks know the differences found exclusively on the 737-MAX are found on the cowling behind the engines and in the shape of the wing tips, but to most, this isn’t something they’d notice.

Ryanair has repainted planes from “737-MAX” on the side to “737-8200”, which would make anyone enjoying the boarding stairs up onto their flight believe they’re not in fact on a MAX, but just another random plane number they don’t care about. Talk about shifting the conversation. These planes are rolling out of the Boeing Factory now with this new 737-8200 decal, rather than their actual program name – the MAX. This was spotted by the eagle eyed aviation photographer Woodys Aeroimages.

At the end of the day, the burden is on the passenger to become more involved in their air travel bookings and become discerning about which aircraft they choose. At the same time, changing the name of a plane to confuse passengers is abhorrent – and I think Ryanair is shameful in that pursuit here.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. While I’m not usually one to give Ryanair the benefit of the doubt, are we sure this isn’t something that’s being done in part with Boeing? IAG recently referred to MAX differently when they announced their LOI. I’m not sure this is so much Ryanair being deceptive as much as it’s Boeing rebranding the MAX.

  2. This might actually be more reassuring for the average tourist. Whilst the bad news surrounding the MAX was widespread such that everyone has heard of it, its very likely that the good news that problems have been sorted will bypass mainstream news and only airline geeks will know.

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