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Ryanair pilots blow the whistle on cost-cutting fuel policy

PUBLISHED: January 3, 2013 at 9:22 am  •  LAST EDITED: January 3, 2013 at 4:38 pm
Andalucia, Lead  •  9 Comments

Ryanair pilots blow the whistle on cost-cutting fuel policy

• Ryanair was investigated amid claims it was putting passengers at risk by flying with low fuel

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By Frances Leate

A GROUP of pilots working for budget airline Ryanair have spoken out over a money-saving fuel policy that they say could cost lives.

As reported in the Olive Press in September, Ryanair was investigated by Spain’s Aviation Authority after three jets had to make emergency landings in Valencia because of low fuel all on the same day last July.

Speaking anonymously on a Dutch TV show, the four whistle-blowers said they were forced to fly the Boeing 737-800 planes on as little fuel as legally possible in order to save the cost-cutting airline money.

One said many of the crew were ‘under extra pressure’ because of the potentially dangerous policy.

He added: “I hope it doesn’t take a crash from one of our planes to wake everybody up.”

Former Ryanair captain Ian Somner also told the TV show the airline operated an ‘oppressive regime’ of ‘bullying, intimidation, threats and harassment’.

But Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary claimed Somner and the other three pilots were lying. He said: “They are quoted anonymously, because what they are telling you are lies.”

Last night a spokesperson for Ryanair said: “The claims made by this Dutch TV programme are factually untrue.

“As the official report into the three Valencia weather diversions confirmed, all three pilots took extra fuel and all three aircraft fully complied with safety regulations.”

He added: “The only pressure placed on Ryanair pilots is to prioritise safety, which is why Ryanair has an outstanding 28 year safety record.”


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January 4th, 2013 3:29 pm

Right… “they were forced to fly the Boeing 737-800 planes on as little fuel as legally possible”.
So, by their own admission, they were being asked to operate within the law. Where is the problem?

J. A. Roberts

January 4th, 2013 11:57 pm

Exactly Brigitte, either it’s legal or it’s illegal, and if it’s legal then it’s irrelevant how little it is…


January 6th, 2013 8:27 pm

But what if the plane were forced into an unexpected diversion and there wasn’t enough fuel? Ryanair is notorious for taking the p*ss but this is just too far

J. A. Roberts

January 7th, 2013 1:27 pm

@Josh, the legal minimum fuel load takes unexpected diversions into account. Ryanair’s incidents per mile flown and passenger carried are significantly lower than those at most other airlines, especially Iberia which has a particularly hogh rate of incidents per passenger mile. Ryanair’s fleet is also one of the youngest in the business and Ryanair’s safety record is second to none. They don’t sell customer sevice. They sell seats on a bus which travels at 35000 feet. A modern bus, maintained and operated to the highest standard.

J. A. Roberts

January 7th, 2013 2:03 pm

Oh, and while the Spanish press and Government don’t miss a chance to trash Ryanair over apparent safety failings, the real story is what is happening in the skies above Spain.

I’m quite happy to fly Ryanair but my heart-rate and blood-pressure don’t come down to anything close to normal until I leave Spanish airspace – whatever the airline.

There’s a horrific but totally avoidable crash just waiting to happen. The real story is the fast increasing levels of incompetence and disfunction at Spanish ATC, and it’s not just the controllers, although they don’t always help their own cause.

Here’s just the latest example of the chaos in Spanish skies:

Over to you OP and your investigative journalists… let’s see the truth exposed.


January 10th, 2013 3:33 pm

@J.A.Roberts Can you elaborate on what the “real story” is in the skies above Spain? You just provide links to one incident at fogbound Barcelona on 23rd December 2011… Incidents happen in the UK and elsewhere too.

If you search for “Ryanair” on the PPRuNe forums you will find they are not regarded highly at all by the professional pilots, in fact, quite the opposite.

Check out the Ryanair incidents which endanger passenger lives such as

Other scary incidents but in which planes landed safely for example:

Large companies have refused to allow their employees to fly Ryanair over safety concerns:

I would fly with any other airline, if possible, even if it costs more money. Ryanair are NOT a safe airline just because they have not had a serious accident yet. The incidents, mentioned in this article, last July where they had 3 mayday calls into Valencia diverted from MAD were at the expense of other airlines who had carried enough fuel. If all airlines had the same policy of carrying just the legal amount of fuel then Ryanair planes would not jump the queue and there would have been some tragic consequences.

BBC Panorama had a program on Ryanair a few years ago uploaded on youtube here…

So, I agree, let’s have some more investigative journalists exposing the truth. In the meantime, Happy Flying and may the luck of the Irish be with you…


January 10th, 2013 10:04 pm

Don’t believe all of the negative press about Ryanair. A lot of it is made up of spurious accounts and claims.

The Sunday Times have just admitted that they too have been told lies, and have paid out a significant amount of damages.



January 11th, 2013 11:05 am

@Brigitte – The Sunday Times have not admitted that they have been told lies and the amount of damages was not disclosed, that is why the “significant damages” were in quotes. It would seem that the journalist tried to add credibility by referring to a leaked report which did not exist. That is just sloppy journalism and it does not mean that Ryanair did not break safety rules and if you refer to my previous post and check out the first link which refers to the following 2 Ryanair incidents from The Aviation Herald which reports on incidents on commercial flights worldwide:

Ryanair have admitted to publishing a monthly league table of fuel usage which they claim is to highlight fuel efficiencies not to punish the pilots who use most fuel by giving them less flying time and therefore paying them less.

I do agree with you about being careful about what you read about Ryanair with so many spurious claims, such as on their own website claiming to be the World’s Favourite Airline… Where does that come from? Who awarded them that?

Another example: On Ryanair’s passenger charter, section 3 claims “Honour the agreed fare after payment. After payment for the ticket has been made, no fare increase will apply.”. Except when they charge your card €1.92 after you have booked flight because of an increase in Spanish Airport Taxes when other airlines swallow that extra charge, and do not pass that onto the customer, on flights booked before the tax increase. Maybe they will claim that extra charge is not the “fare”.

Another example: Ryanair provide their own figures for on-time performance and loss of baggage or am I wrong and is an independant organisation providing this information? Given the fact that not many people check in luggage with Ryanair and that the airline rarely fly to or from major airports and that they allow a scheduled flight time far in excess of the required journey time it is not difficult to understand how they can make such claims.

So many examples can be given…

I am not speaking just from reading newspapers and the internet but from personal experience. I used to fly up to 100 times per year as a passenger and have had to fly Ryanair lots of times. I am not claiming that other airlines are safer than Ryanair and incidents do happen for other airlines but Ryanair have a good share of their own incidents and I do not like their attitude to safety. Being legal is not necessarily being safe and I would choose not to fly with them unless it was essential and there was absolutely no other choice.


January 23rd, 2013 1:38 pm

Right, reading these comments from the top, I clearly noticed, like in most other articles blaming Ryanair, that the first 2/3 comments are from people probably paid from the company itself because it is amazing the passion they put to defend Ryanair from any wrong done. The very same happens on ryanair facebook pages with the same people looking around for critics o blames toward the “no care” company Ryanair as a sort of antibodies.

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