European budget carrier Ryanair, much like other airline carriers in Europe, haven’t had the smoothest year.
The airline has sufferd disruption to its operations over the summer, which has hit consumer confidence and knocked forward bookings in the third quarterof this year. It’s battling higher oil prices (as is every other airline around the world), a European air traffic control staff shortage, and fewer passengers flew from UK (its biggest hub) due to a weakening in the British pound.
However, despite the fall in profits, the airline remains very profitable, and announced full-year profits of approximately $1.4 billion.
To be clear, the “disruption to its operations over the summer” were a continuous wave of Ryanair pilot and cabin crew strikes, with cabin crew striking over poor working conditions at the airline, leading them to increased fatigue, and genuine fears they “will not be able to carry out an emergency evacuation as expected,” in the event of such a scenario.
If the public had any doubt over the ‘poor working conditions’ cited as the reason for crew taking strike action — here’s what happened last week, in Malaga, Spain.
Much of the South of Spain was hit by one-night of intense summer storms, with multiple storms dotted along the entire coast.
Around 30 litres of rain fell each hour, leading to several flight cancellations, and flight diversions away from Malaga Airport.
With any flights wishing to leave Malaga delayed until the morning…Ryanair left an evening flight’s cabin crew to sleep on the floor of the airline’s crew report room.
Not only is it inhumane to leave the staff on the floors of an airport, but the public should be further alarmed that these crew were then expected to operate a Ryanair flight the next day, after a very brief ‘rest period’ the following morning.
Ryanair’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Bellew said on Twitter: “Unfortunately, all hotels were completely booked out in Malaga. The storm created huge damage in Portugal. Later after this the crew moved to VIP lounge. Apologies to the crew we could not find accommodation”
While Ryanair’s COO states “all hotels were completely booked out in Malaga” — this is simply not the truth, nor the reality in Malaga.
There are at least 400 hotels in and around the main city of Malaga, City, with a further 1,500 properties within 20 kilometres of the airport. Furthermore, it’s low-season in Southern Spain, and most hotel occupancy rates are at 50% (half-empty) as is normal for this time of year.
Where Ryanair’s COO then added: “the crew moved to VIP lounge” — sadly, this appears to have not been the case, either.
I’ve spoken to the ‘SALA VIP’ lounge at Malaga Airport, the only lounge in the terminal, who confirmed no crew from any airline entered the lounge, and not only described it as “against lounge policy” but added “it’s also impossible, as our lounge closes at 23:00 each night, and this was the case on the night of flight disruption caused by the storms”.
Low-cost airlines often have a reputation for avoiding the truth, and unfortunately— the response to this alarming situation by senior Ryanair figures will not help the airlines’ reputation. In addition to this, the way in which cabin crew were left on the floor is almost a guarantee of more cabin crew strikes to come, understandably.
Exhausted crew should be of a concern to all passengers, and fatigue can impair a crew member’s alertness and ability to safely operate an aircraft or perform safety-related duties.
In the Middle East, a senior cabin crew at FlyDubai (a low-cost Emirati carrier) told European media of fatigue at the airline, explaining: “Often in the incident reports that came through there were crew that were often opening armed doors (slide could deploy) while the planes were on the ground just due to the fatigue. Because they were so tired, they did not know what they were doing”
Just recently, the British union representing Qantas’ London-based flight attendants has states that “cabin crew working the new nonstop London, UK to Perth, Australia service are suffering fatigue and Qantas are responding by attempting to silence legitimate health and safety concerns.”
If anyone were to have any doubt over why cabin crew are frequently striking at Ryanair, the example of what happened in Malaga last week should help explain. Ryanair are profitable, while continuing to offer passengers extremely cheap fares…but is the true cost of ultra-cheap air travel; an exhausted set of crew, who may struggle to evacuate a passenger aircraft fast enough, or may forget to check surroundings through the emergency exit door window prior to opening it in an emergency?
I’ve tweeted Peter Bellew, Ryanair’s COO, and I’ll share this article too.