Back in the news today is Ryanair, the Millwall of air carriers (everybody hates us and we don’t care), who have been called out by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for their frankly larcenous approach to debit card transactions – well, the vast majority of them, anyway. The OFT have estimated that a debit card payment costs “significantly less” than a quid to process: Ryanair charge five pounds per sector per passenger, unless you carry a pre-pay card.
Thus, had I chosen Ryanair for my trip to Prague last June (the charge for debit cards put me off and led me to find that BMIBaby were cheaper for the same sector), the carrier would have made over nine pounds’ worth of extra profit. For a family of four, on one booking, they would have made another 39 notes.
Meanwhile, the flip side of Ryanair’s money generating activities – keeping down costs – has been laid bare on the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) website: the “Bulletin Reports” for December includes a potentially deadly incident at Stansted back in late 2008. As ever, the AAIB do not identify the carrier concerned, but the Irish registration mark, together with the location and aircraft type (Boeing 737-800) leave little doubt. Moreover, the full report includes at Figure 3 a photo which shows clearly the Ryanair logo and livery.
The incident, while attributable to both flight deck and ground handling, points up the pressure on Ryanair crews: the flight was running late, and the aircraft was carrying a defect – the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was not working – so engine start was initially from a ground air supply. The flight deck should not have attempted what is known as a crossbleed start of the second engine – using the already started engine to provide start pressure – without the park brake applied. That they did suggests corner cutting to save time.
And finally, consider the number of hours flown by the flight commander in the past 90 days: if the total for the last 28 days, at 23 hours, is correct, that means that in the 62 days beforehand, he flew a total of 247 hours. Most carriers work to a maximum of 80 per 28 days, with an absolute maximum of 100. If I were at the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), I’d be asking Mr O’Leary and his pals just how their crews are putting in such heroic numbers of hours – or being caused so to do.