Ryanair's fuel-saving speed squeeze to mean longer flight times
RYANAIR flights are set to take longer after chief executive Michael O'Leary ordered pilots to reduce takeoff speed and fly slower in a bid to save fuel.
Mr O'Leary wants to save money – even a small decrease in Ryanair's fuel usage could mean millions of euro a year saved by the carrier, which is Europe's largest low-cost airline.
He said Ryanair now had what he described as "Formula 1" telemetry on all its aircraft, called an Operational Flight Data Monitoring system.
"We get all the height, speed and everything else that the planes are flying at," explained Mr O'Leary. "We're now able to manage our flights in order to require our pilots to comply with what we term the approved flight profile, which is the takeoff speed, the cruise speed, the descent, the landing – all that kind of stuff."
With a fleet of just over 300 aircraft, fuel is the single biggest cost for Ryanair. Last year its fuel bill soared 18pc to €1.88bn and represented 45pc of its overall costs.
In the latest financial quarter for the airline – the three months to the end of June – its fuel bill jumped 6pc to €577m.
And while it's known for squeezing every cent it can out of its customers, Ryanair is now squeezing everything it can out of its aircrafts' fuel tanks.
With 175 new aircraft on order and its fleet size set to top 400 aircraft within a few years' time, the airline is increasingly mindful of how much it's spending to criss-cross Europe.
Mr O'Leary said the carrier has become "very active" in managing its fuel use over the past two years.
"We're requiring pilots to fly slightly slower," he said, arguing the move also enhanced safety.
He said that the slower cruising speeds meant minor increases in flight times, and thus slightly higher staff costs.
But he said the impact of slower flying was a "very significant gain" in relation to lower fuel consumption.
Ryanair has the lowest cost base of any airline in Europe.
Mr O'Leary also launched a tirade of abuse against the UK's Competition Commission, which will soon decide how much of Ryanair's 29.9pc stake in Aer Lingus the carrier will be forced to sell to allay competition concerns.
"The Aer Lingus thing is a farce," he insisted. He said the commission is "dreaming up f***ing fairytales" to force Ryanair to sell its stake. He claimed the Irish Government's aviation policy was "anybody but Ryanair".
Aer Lingus, which has surged back to profitability in the last couple of years, releases first half results today.