Ryanair 'courts disaster' with fuel cost-cutting, unions warn

Ryanair

Budget airline to be investigated after series of emergency landings in Spain

LAST UPDATED AT 12:00 ON Wed 19 Sep 2012

RYANAIR is "courting disaster" with a cost-cutting policy that encourages passenger jets to fly with near-empty tanks, pilot union leaders have claimed. The Irish and Spanish aviation authorities are to investigate the budget airline following a spate of emergency landings said to have been made because its planes were running low on fuel.

The joint investigation will look into a specific incident last Sunday – the diversion to Madrid of a Ryanair flight from Paris to Tenerife following a technical issue, the Daily Mail reports.

Spanish air safety experts are also looking into emergency landings made by three Ryanair planes in Valencia on 26 July as they approached the 30-minute fuel minimum. The pilots had been asked to circle above Madrid after thunderstorms in Valencia prevented them from landing there.

Ryanair said the July landings were fully in line with EU safety procedures and that passengers were in no danger. The airline also rejected claims by both the Irish and Spanish pilots' unions that it pressures flight crews to carry the minimum amount of fuel required under European regulations.

Ryanair carried more than 30 million passengers in Spain last year and is the country's biggest passenger carrier.

Earlier this week the row over Ryanair's cost-cutting on fuel intensified when a Spanish pilots' union official accused the airline of compromising safety. Accident investigator Juan Carlos Lozano stressed that Ryanair was not breaking any rules but warned "they are operating on the very limits of legality".

In an interview on Spanish national radio Lozano said that Ryanair executives "send instructions to the crew, emphasising that for every X kilos of fuel they pump in the airline loses X amount of money. As a consequence those in charge of the aircraft are confronted by a cost-cutting exercise that could lead them into difficult situations."

Ryanair's low-fuel emergency landings were on the increase, he added. If no action is taken then Ryanair is "courting disaster".

In a statement last night the Irish department of transport insisted that Ryanair's safety standards remained "on a par with the safest airlines in Europe". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.