Airlines such as Ryanair could be putting passengers at risk by restricting the amount of fuel they carry to the legal minimum in an attempt to cut costs, aviation authorities have warned. In a strongly worded report Spanish safety investigators said that “market competition” was forcing airlines to carry less emergency fuel to improve competitiveness.
And they warned that air traffic controllers might not be able to cope if, due to bad weather or a closed a runway, they were faced with multiple planes trying to land with minimum fuel levels on board.
The recently released Spanish report into an incident in which a Ryanair plane landed at Valencia airport in 2010 carrying less than the legally required amount of fuel, comes as internal Ryanair memos have revealed the tough line taken with pilots. One memo warns pilots that any attempt to routinely take on more fuel than is operationally required is a “zero tolerance” issue.
“The routine carriage of 300kgs of extra fuel is discouraged,” Ryanair’s base captain wrote. “If we all carry 300kgs of (extra) fuel on each sector we burn an extra 7.5kgs of fuel unnecessarily. That is 19,500kgs wasted across the fleet daily… Simple maths works out that costs the company $5m each year.”
The memo has since been disowned by Ryanair management. But another memo to Stansted pilots almost two years later stated: “All of you are aware of our on-going efficiency drive particularly regarding fuel… There remain a small number of commanders who appear to have difficulty with operating with [planned fuel requirements] plus 300kgs or less.”
The official policy of Ryanair is that its captains can take on up to half the final reserve fuel figure – as long as they provide a reason for doing so.
But the official report into the Ryanair Flight RY9ZC on-route from Stansted to Alicante in Spain with 170 passengers on board in May 2010 reveals regulators’ concerns about the policy. It details how the 27-year-old Ryanair captain decided not to take on any additional fuel other than that calculated in his flight plan.
In fact, due to better than expected weather conditions and a lower than estimated take-off weight, the plane’s fuel consumption was 477kg less than had been predicted. But as the plane approached the airport it faced unexpectedly strong winds and was forced abandon two attempts to land.
At that point the captain, and his 22-year-old co-pilot, made a decision to divert to Valencia. But while approaching the airport, the crew had to declare a Mayday.
The plane landed safely but a measurement of fuel after landing showed it had just 956kg remaining, 183kg below the legal required final fuel reserve of 1,139kg. If the plane had had predicted conditions on route it would have had only 15 minutes of flying time.
In its analysis of the incident, the Spanish Civil Aviation Accident and Incident Investigation Commission said it was concerned that if more airlines adopted Ryanair’s fuel strategy then safety could be compromised.
The report concluded that the cause of the incident was the crew’s “inadequate decision-making process”.
A spokesman for Ryanair said the airline was happy with the instructions it gave it pilots on fuel levels
“The EU’s fuel requirements work fine for all EU airlines,” they said. “If pilots want fuel over and above our prescribed extra fuel, they take it.”
Most Ryanair pilots are on contracts that do not guarantee a specific number of hours a month and they are only paid for the hours they fly. Critics say this may put pressure on captains to fly even if they are unwell.
Some cabin crew are forced to take up to three months’ unpaid leave a year. They have to pay for their uniforms and training.
Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has maintained an above average level of on-time performance for many of its key Scottish business routes as reported in the most recently released Civil Aviation Authority Punctuality figures for May 2013.
With punctuality always top of mind, Flybe flights to and from Birmingham airport fared particularly well with those serving Inverness reporting a 95% on-time record; and those to and from Edinburgh and Glasgow a 90- and 91% punctuality record respectively. Flights on other key business routes serving Scotland also enjoyed above-average performances most notably those between Glasgow and Manchester (93%), Cardiff (90%) and Southampton (90%).
Andrew Strong, Flybe UK MD comments: “The statistics speak for themselves. We are naturally very pleased to have received such high profile confirmation from the CAA that Flybe continues to provide such punctual services on key routes that are particularly popular with our business travellers.”
“We appreciate that all our passengers’ time is at a premium and we understand the importance of providing our customers with an affordable service that they can rely upon.
European aviation giant EADS has said it will rename itself Airbus Group in order to “enhance integration and cohesion” at the group.
The newly reorganised group will be composed of three divisions: Airbus, responsible for all commercial aircraft activities; Airbus Defence & Space, home to the group’s defence and space activities including military transport aircraft; andAirbus Helicopters, comprising all commercial and military helicopter activities.
The group also unveiled plans to integrate Airbus Military, Astrium and Cassidian into one the defence and space division.
This is a response to the changing market environment with flat or even shrinking defence and space budgets in the western hemisphere, EADS said in a statement.
“This structural change will provide optimised market access, cost and market synergies and improved competitiveness overall,” added a statement.
“It will also provide better visibility on the European leader in space and defence.”
Airbus Helicopters, with its civil and military products, will remain unchanged.
The rotorcraft technology is very particular and it’s necessary to maintain the strong synergies between civil and military products.
Implementation is planned to start step-by-step on January 1st 2014 and will be completed in the second half of 2014.
Several regulatory milestones, works council consultations and other approval procedures have to be accomplished before the changes can come into full effect.
EADS chief executive Tom Enders commented: “What we are unveiling today is an evolution, not a revolution.
“It’s the next logical step in the development of our company.
“We affirm the predominance of commercial aeronautics in our group and we restructure and focus our defence and space activities to take costs out, increase profitability and improve our market position.
“The renaming simply gathers the entire company under the best brand we have, one that stands for internationalisation, innovation and integration - and also for some two thirds of our revenues.
“It reinforces the message that ‘we make things fly’.”
New Zealanders will soon be able to take full advantage of the Qantas and Emirates partnership, with the joint network opening for bookings from August 14th 2013.
Aligned fares, frequent flyer benefits and codeshare arrangements will all be switched on across the Tasman, making it easier for New Zealanders to access world class travel experiences.
It will also make New Zealand part of a joint Qantas-Emirates network, which includes Australia, Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the UK, bringing the world closer via the global hub of Dubai.
Together, the airlines will operate around 130 services per week from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Queenstown to Australian east coast cities – then onwards to more than 65 destinations in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Existing capacity on trans-Tasman routes that both Qantas and Emirates fly has been guaranteed as part of regulatory approvals.
Emirates’ trans-Tasman services are operated by the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777, while Qantas’ services are operated by a dedicated fleet of next generation Boeing 737-800s.
Qantas’ executive manager, international sales, Stephen Thompson, said the partnership was great news for New Zealand travellers and local tourism.
“New Zealand was part of the Qantas-Emirates vision from the start and since receiving government approval in May our teams have been working hard towards switching the partnership on,” Thompson said.
“From mid-August New Zealanders will be able to take full advantage of the network, lounges and frequent flyer opportunities available with Qantas and Emirates, tapping into a comprehensive trans-Tasman schedule and a vast range of international destinations.
“The partnership is also good news for inbound tourism, with both airlines selling New Zealand’s world-class tourism attractions around the world.
“Wellington and Queenstown are likely to benefit considerably, as these are Qantas destinations that Emirates will now offer to their global customer base for the first time.”
Cathay Pacific Airways announced today that it will launch its first ever destination in Latin America with a new scheduled freighter service to Guadalajara, Mexico in last quarter of 2013, subject to government approval.
With this new service, Cathay Pacific will be the first and only airline operating a freighter service linking Hong Kong and Mexico. The new freighter destination will provide shippers with greater choice and more flexibility when connecting to Cathay Pacific’s international cargo network through its Hong Kong hub.
To cater for the anticipated high volumes of auto parts, electronics, garments and perishables coming out of Mexico’s second largest city, Cathay Pacific will operate the new freighter service to Guadalajara twice-weekly (subject to government approval) using its newest and biggest freighter, the Boeing 747-8F offering more cargo space to meet the growing demand for a wide range of commodities from Latin America and the United States to various points in Asia.
Cathay Pacific Chief Operating Officer Ivan Chu said: “This is the first such freighter service between Hong Kong and Mexico and is a very important step in bringing two such vibrant economies closer together. With growing demand for direct cargo services between Asia and Mexico, our new freighter service will help to establish a very important trade lane between the two regions. At the same time it will help to further strengthen Hong Kong’s position as one of the world’s busiest international airfreight gateways.”
“Air connectivity is a decisive step towards bringing our societies closer to enhance trade, investment and generate all kind of exchanges. This new cargo flight certainly goes along the spirit of a more productive and mutually beneficial Mexico-Hong Kong and Mexico-China relationships that we are experiencing.” said the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, on the occasion of her first official visit to Hong Kong. “I hope the cargo flights are truly successful and look forward to a passenger one in the short run”, she added.
Cathay Pacific currently operates cargo services to 10 destinations in North America and flies to a total of 42 freighter destinations around the world. Previous new additions to its freighter network included Zhengzhou, Hyderabad and Colombo in 2012. The airline recently took delivery of its ninth Boeing 747-8F freighter aircraft, with four more to be delivered later in the year.