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Following a complaint from AENA the Spanish Airports Authority, the Aviation Safety Agency under the Ministry of Development has initiated an investigation against budget carrier Ryanair. This follows an incident when 3 Ryanair flights were forced to make emergency landings at Manises Airport in Valencia on 26th July due to lack of fuel. It has opened a debate on the aggressive cost cutting policies favored of the budget airline. In a statement the company said that "Its flights were operating with fuel levels required by European authorities"

Queue at Ryanair check in Alicante airport
Following a thunderstorm in Madrid, the 3 flights in question could not make the landing at Barajas in Madrid and had to be diverted to Manises in Valencia. The planes circled Valencia for 50, 68 and 69 minutes and when they reached the "minimum level of reserve fuel that allows each aircraft to operate" the pilots requested a "priority emergency landing".

Regulations on fuel requirements is complex and depends on calculations submitted by the pilot, according to COPAC, the Association of Commercial Aviation Pilots. Before take off the pilot must calculate how much kerosene is required to reach the destination. It should also include enough fuel in case of heavy traffic or bad weather at the destination airport that may force him to queue - usually reserves for 45 minutes. In addition, a final reserve to provide a cushion of at least 30 minutes is required and when the plane falls below this reserve the pilot may request an emergency landing, as was the case.

If the pilot adjusts these calculations the company can make savings as they carry less fuel therefore the plane weighs less and so consumes less fuel "A policy that puts fuel economy ahead of security" says COPAC. In a statement, Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara  said "the aircraft landed "normally" with correct "minimum" fuel. This included the fuel needed for route detours and fuel in case of contingencies"

According to employees of the airline, at least two internal memoranda have been issued to emphasis that the pilots must fill up the minimum amount "necessary" to fulfil its flight plan and "any extra must be justified in writing". It is obviously placing a lot of additional pressure on pilots knowing that they are being scrutinised. The company is well known for its cost cutting measures - the furor for making passengers board and disembark at Alicante airport using stairs instead of the airbridges is still being contested.
Busy Alicante airport

Spanish pilots union SEPLA has applauded the decision of the Spanish Agency for Aviation Safety to investigate the Irish company. The union pointed out that for "several years" they have been pressured from Ryanair to "minimize the cost of fuel". German pilots union Cockpit have also reported that they too are under "heavy pressure" from the airline. According to both pilots association, pressure from the Irish company pose "a risk to aviation safety". In a statement the carrier issued they reported that "all flights are operating on the proper amount of fuel"

The consumer organisation "Ceaccu" have said that if  irregularities are found they will request that the Directorate of Civil Aviation suspends the airlines license to operate in Spain for up to three years and issue a fine of 4.5 million euros due to the severity of the offense. However, in response Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O´Leary said that "neither Ministry or Government have power to take away the license  of a Ryanair flight, it is issued by the Irish civil aviation authority, not the Spanish".

 O´Leary has insisted that the airline has not breached any rules stating that at no time were crew or passengers at risk. Watch this space for updates to the continuing saga - love them or hate them, Ryanair does bring a lot of business to Spain from the UK and in these economically stained times can the country afford to loose any more visitors?  After all the controversy following the newspaper bashing about Benidorm in both The Sun and The Mirror, the resort doesn´t need the added pressure of tourists unable to get here!

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  • The fiesta that never was

    Jo Smirnoff Hughes 10.11.2020 10:57
    Our group would of been going today so sad, horrible for benidorm all this just hope they can survive ...
     
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