Ryanair investigation prompts call for new fuel guidelines
Air accident investigators in Spain have called for new guidelines on fuel reserves in light of Ryanair’s tendency to carry only the minimum amount required by law.
Although the Madrid-based Civil Aviation Accident and Incident Investigation Commission (CIAIAC) confirmed that Ryanair had not breached air safety regulations, it noted that the airline operates flights with minimal fuel to save money, which “leaves none for contingencies”, the industry magazine Travel Weekly reports.
It added that Ryanair’s policy was putting it at an economic advantage, which was encouraging other airlines to follow suit – a situation which might result in airports facing “simultaneous emergency declarations for lack of fuel”.
The report examined incidents at Alicante in May 2010 and Valencia in July 2012 when Ryanair’s flight crew were forced to issue “Mayday” warnings due to low fuel reserves. The incidents led to the Irish Airline Pilots Association accusing Ryanair of putting pressure on crew to fly without extra fuel on flights.
In reference to the first incident, the CIAIAC ruled that Ryanair was at fault for “inadequate decision-making in their decision to attempt the second approach and in their choice of an alternate airport…which resulted in their fuel dropping below the required minimum fuel reserve.”
It also suggested that Ryanair’s crew failed to speak “slowly and distinctly” when communicating with Spanish air-traffic controllers. Ryanair said its crew "were English nationals speaking English. The problem was that Spanish Air Traffic Control should, but didn’t, understand English."
Of Ryanair’s fuel policy, it concluded: “Though they comply with the minimum legal requirements, they tend to minimise the amount of fuel ... and leave none for contingencies.”
It added that the carrier’s fuel policy “is based specifically on minimising the fuel load at the start of the flight ... As a result, Ryanair aircraft generally land with the minimum required fuel.
“This policy ... gives Ryanair a competitive advantage over other airlines that tend to fly with larger amounts of reserve fuel and therefore use more fuel. Market competition is forcing other airlines to reduce their costs by adopting fuel policies similar to Ryanair’s.
“This could make it commonplace for airplanes to arrive at their destinations with the minimum required fuel and without reserves in the event of a delay.
“The arrival of several aircraft flying with minimum fuel at the same airport could give rise to several simultaneous emergency declarations for lack of fuel.
“In light of this, aviation authorities should establish expected typical average delay times at various airports… to provide guidelines to airlines on the increased fuel reserves needed to fly safely.”
A Ryanair spokesman said the final decision on how much fuel to take rests with the pilot.
He added: "Ryanair fuel plans anticipate flight disruptions, delays and limiting weather conditions and we encourage pilots to take extra fuel if they need it. Over 50 per cent of Ryanair pilots take extra fuel on daily basis.
"There are no minimum fuel requirements on landing of any aircraft. 'Minimum landing fuel' is a pre-departure fuel buffer, to which all Ryanair flights fully comply with. Ryanair has written to the CIAIAC objecting to these findings ... and we are filing a formal complaint about this inaccurate report with the European Air Safety Authority."