(Updates with safety record in 10th paragraph.)
Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary defended the Irish carrier’s safety record after a U.K. television program screened last night featured pilots who questioned its cost-cutting culture.
Ryanair doesn’t encourage crew to fly with minimum kerosene loads and most of its jets carry more than the required amount, O’Leary said in an interview. Fuel emergencies, declared when pilots come close to breaching a mandatory 30-minute reserve, “while rare, are not unusual” in the airline industry, he said.
Pilots are wary of raising concerns and are encouraged to carry as little fuel as possible, the Channel 4 ’Dispatches’ documentary said, citing a survey conducted by an unofficial group that claims to represent more than half of Ryanair pilots. The fuel issue arose when three jets declared emergencies before touching down in Valencia after diversions from Madrid last year. The planes landed safely and in compliance with European Aviation Safety Agency rules, the Irish Aviation Authority said.
“We don’t have any policy of flying with minimum fuel, there isn’t even a definition of what minimum fuel is,” O’Leary said by telephone, adding that 55 percent of its departing planes take on kerosene over-and-above the stipulated levels.
Regulations require that jets carry enough fuel to reach alternative airports and have sufficient for 30 minutes more flying left over even after landing, the IAA said in a statement on its website. Captains can upload extra fuel and “regularly do so where weather or delays are anticipated,” it said.
A storm over Madrid on July 26, 2012, caused 15 planes to be diverted, David Guillamon, a Spanish air traffic controller, told Dispatches. After being held over Valencia for 50 minutes, 68 minutes and 69 minutes respectively, three Ryanair aircraft followed standard procedure and sought immediate permission to land as they neared reserve-fuel minimums, the carrier has said.
Europe’s No. 1 low-cost airline also has no policy of deleting cockpit voice recordings, O’Leary said in response to assertions in the Channel 4 program, adding that pilots need to save so-called black-box information themselves.
Crew have failed do so following only 12 flights out of about 4 million in the past eight years, the CEO said.
Ryanair has instructed its lawyers to issue legal proceedings against Channel 4 for defamation, and looks forward to the safety of its operations “being thoroughly vindicated,” the Dublin-based company said in an e-mailed statement.
The only event in Ryanair’s history that can be defined as an accident came in 2008 incident when a plane hit a flock of birds before landing, damaging the engines, said Paul Hayes, head of safety at London-based aviation consultancy Ascend.
--Editors: Chris Jasper, Benedikt Kammel.