Ryanair does not expect delivery of its the first Boeing 737 Max until at least September or October.

The European low-fare giant extended its target of reaching 200 million annual passengers by as much as two years to 2026 as a result.

It has also shut loss-making winter bases across Europe and cut jobs.

The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide for almost a year following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia which killed a total of 346 people.

Ryanair has orders for 135 Max aircraft plus options on a further 75 with deliveries originally due to start last spring.

The airline said today: “It is now likely that our first Max aircraft will not deliver until September or October 2020” after repeatedly being delayed.

“The requirement for Max simulator training will also slow down the delivery of backlogged aircraft and new deliveries.

“But we believe that these ‘gamechanger’ aircraft, when delivered, will transform our cost base and our business for the next decade.

“Due to these delivery delays, we won’t see any of these cost savings until late full year 2021.

“As a direct result of these delivery delays, we plan to extend our 200 million per annum passenger target by at least one or two years to full year 2025 or full year 2026.”

The airline added: “Regrettably the Boeing Max delivery delays mean that Ryanair had to close a number of loss-making winter bases leading to some crew redundancies in Spain, Germany and Sweden.

“We have endeavoured to minimise job losses through base transfers and seasonal bases and continue to work with our people, their unions and our airports to finalise this process.”

The budget carrier expects passenger growth of 8% to 154 million passengers for the 12 months to the end of March with an improved profits guidance of up to €1.05 billion due to stronger Christmas and new year bookings at better than expected fares.

Ryanair achieved a profit of €88 million in the three months to December 31 against a loss of €66 million in the equivalent third quarter a year earlier as passenger numbers grew by 6% to 33.8 million with improved sales of 21% to €1.91 billion.

The Irish carrier used its third quarter results announcement to emphasise its claim to be Europe’s “greenest, cleanest” airline by revealing carbon emissions of 66 grams of CO2 per passenger kilometre and the appointment of a sustainability director “to deliver the group’s ambitious sustainability targets”.

Ryanair used the claim to hit out at “excessive” environmental taxes which will cost the carrier more than €630 million in the current financial year.

“While aviation generates just 2% of Europe’s CO2, our industry must work harder to further cut these emissions,” the airline said.

Ryanair has pledged to cut its CO2 emissions by 10% to 2030 to become 50% lower than major European airlines; cut noise emissions by 40%; become plastic free in five years; encourage passengers to back a voluntary carbon offset scheme and to work to improve the environment in Europe.

Nigel Frith, a senior market analyst at Asktraders.com, said: “Ryanair is soaring higher thanks to strong Christmas numbers Ryanair.

“The budget airline swinging back into profit at the end of the year, is overshadowing delays to Ryanair reaching its growth target and coronavirus fears which have dragged heavily on airlines and travel stocks over the past few weeks.

Ryanair, like its rival easyJet, has benefited from the collapse of Thomas Cook, boosting its passenger numbers.

“Revenue per passenger also increased an impressive 13% compared to the same period the previous year.

“Whilst investors are focusing on the positives today, delays to Boeing 737 Max deliveries will not only delay Ryanair’s target of reaching 200 million passengers by two years to 2026, but also prevent it from achieving cost savings associated with the new aircraft until 2021.

“Full year guidance is unchanged from the upgrade three weeks ago.”