El Mundo reckons that Ryanair has accumulated 1201 “incidents” reported to the Spanish air safety board AESA since the beginning of the year, or about 50 a week.
These “incidents” range from full scale emergencies such as cabin depressurization, or landing with not enough fuel in the tank, to “minor” infractions at airports or customer complaints.
Ryanair carried 30 million passengers in Spain in the first six months of this year, or about 1 out of every five fliers went with the airline.
El Mundo, not a paper that likes the airline, has accused Ryanair of “flying to the legal line in order to maximise profits”, and AESA sources have grumbled to the paper, saying that Ryanair has used its massive muscle to simply ignore Spanish authorities.
For example, the airline has so far racked up 2,1 million euros in unpaid fines which the airline has simply said it will not pay, period.
Indeed, O’Leary wrote a letter to the Spanish government last year in which he said that unless they dropped a number of fines levied against his airline he would scale back on flights to the country.
The single biggest complaint, that is reported time and again by airports, is the refueling of airplanes and maintenance checks. In order to maximise air time for its planes, Ryanair often carries out refuelling operations and basic maintenance checks whilst passengers are boarding, something that is prohibited in every EU country.
It also refuses to allow airports engineers to carry “secondary” maintenance checks on many of its flights, saying that it can’t afford to have planes hanging around whilst engineers check things twice. It also flies all flights with the minimum amount of fuel permitted by law, which has recently caused several emergency landings after diverted flights ran low on fuel.
During 41 spot checks carried out on Ryanair boarding flights in the last year by AESA, the airline has accumulated 51 deficiencies, of which 15 were rated “severe” by the safety board.
The trouble is that Spain has no power whatsoever over the Irish airline, as O’Leary recently told a Spanish press interview. And it continues to be, after Air Nostrum, the second most subsidized airline in Spain; in EU grants alone for Spanish flights, the airline has received over 50 million euros in cash this year.
But now Spain saysit wants more power over foreign airlinesand is going to ask the EU for more legislative powers for airlines operating in Spain. “Low cost yes, but not low security” said Ana Pastor, Minister for Development (who has ultimate control of Spanish air space).
A change in the law controlling airlines has also been announced, with more checks expected and larger fines to be levied. The government will also have more power over airlines that simply don’t change their ways or refuse to pay – Ana Pastor, without mentioning Ryanair, told of foreign airlines who calculate that it’s cheaper to pay the occasional fine then change their practises.