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Ryanair is facing an investigation by aviation authorities in Ireland and Spain following accusations that the airline is “courting disaster” by flying with near-empty fuel tanks in a bid to cut costs.
The decision came at a meeting in Dublin yesterday and follows a series of incidents in Spanish airspace involving the no-frills carrier.
On Sunday, a flight from Paris to Tenerife was diverted to Madrid due to a technical issue; on Saturday, a Ryanair flight was diverted to El Prat airport in Barcelona because of an engine fault; and on July 26 three Ryanair aircraft were forced to make emergency landings in Valencia after drawing near to their minimum legal level of fuel. EU rules require commercial aircraft to carry sufficient fuel to cope with various contingencies – such as unexpected delays or re-routing to other airports.
The investigation will focus on the most recent episode, but authorities are already looking into the other incidents.
“As an example of this increased cooperation it was agreed that the circumstances of a specific incident in Madrid airport on September 16 would be jointly examined,” said Ireland’s Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Spanish Ministry of Development in a joint statement.
Ryanair has said the July landings were a result of bad weather, and insists that its planes are safe, and comply fully with all EU safety procedures.
IALPA, the Irish pilots’ union, has accused the airline of putting pressure on flight crews to carry the minimum amount of fuel required under European regulations, while earlier this month the European Cockpit Association said that pilots were being encouraged to make decisions based on “factors other than safety”. Meanwhile the Spanish minister Ana Pastor, who oversees aviation safety, has called for tighter safety regimes at low-cost airlines.
Ryanair has rejected both unions’ claims, and has also accused Spanish aviation authorities of falsifying information on incidents involving its aircraft – an accusation rejected by officials in Spain.
Following yesterday’s meeting the Irish department of transport said: “The Irish authorities gave an assurance of the Irish Aviation Authority’s rigorous oversight of Ryanair’s operations and of their satisfaction with Ryanair’s safety standards which are on a par with the safest airlines in Europe.”
A spokesman from Ryanair said it had “invited the Spanish Ministry to send a team of inspectors to Dublin to correct any (misplaced) concerns about Ryanair’s compliance with Europe’s highest operating and maintenance standards by providing them with unfettered access to Ryanair operating, maintenance and flight training facilities and unlimited access to Ryanair’s safety, flight management, engineering and maintenance personnel.”
“We welcome [yesterday’s] joint statement from the Irish and Spanish Governments which affirms that Ryanair’s safety standards are on a par with the safest airlines in Europe,” he added.