Ryanair rejects Channel 4 safety claims

Airline pilots call on Irish Aviation Authority to investigate safety culture

Ryanair pilots have called on the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to investigate serious concerns they have about the airline's safety culture.

A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last night alleged Ryanair aircraft frequently flew with the minimum of fuel and that the cockpit voice recordings relating to many serious incidents disappeared.

Ryanair hit back after the programme, describing it as “false and defamatory” and that it “wrongly impugned” the airline’s 29-year “excellent” safety record. It said the IAA, which monitors Ryanair’s safety record, conclusively disproves “false claims about Ryanair’s fuel policy and/or Ryanair’s outstanding safety record”.

The programme investigated a situation in July last year where three Ryanair flights diverted from Madrid to Valencia issued Mayday fuel alerts.


Dispatches revealed an internal Ryanair memo which found there had been three fuel emergencies prior to last year's incident, including one over Alicante airport.

The Spanish Air Authority concluded Ryanair aircraft generally land with the minimum required fuel and pilots, who spoke anonymously to the programme, said they were under pressure to keep fuel reserves to a minimum.

Ryanair described the report as “manifestly inaccurate and factually untrue” and said the IAA had “no concern” about Ryanair’s fuel policy.

Last night it stated: “Over 50 per cent of all Ryanair pilots take extra fuel over and above the already planned Ryanair extra fuel on a daily basis.”

The programme also revealed 12 different incidents since 2005 when cockpit voice recordings were not saved after incidents involving Ryanair flights.

Ryanair blamed pilots and said the loss of recordings was an industry-wide problem.

Pilot survey
More than 1,000 Ryanair captains and first officers took part in a survey conducted by the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) which claims to represent half of the airline's senior flying personnel, but is not recognised by the airline.

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe Ryanair does not have an open and transparent safety culture.

Ryanair has dismissed the survey as a "fabrication" and Ryanair spokesman Robin Kiely said the RPG is a front for the European Cockpit Association (ECA) which represents pilots that fly with rival airlines.

The IAA said it did not rely on surveys carried out by pilot groups “which often tend to be motivated by industrial relations issues or employment issues”.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times