Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ryanair: safety under extra scrutiny in Belgium.

I avoid so-called low-cost carriers like the plague, partly because the service on-board is dreadful, and partly because when you pay all the extras, they turn out to be more expensive than proper airlines, more often than not. In Belgium, Ryanair fly from Charleroi. Until a few years ago this airport was like something from the 1950s, but without the optimism. One terminal (at least thats what they called it), a cafe that I never once saw open, and a newspaper stand. It had to be seen to be believed, it really did. Its main saving grace was the fact that car parking was easy. You just parked by the side of the road and left it there until you came back. The old site is disused now, and has been replaced by a ghastly modern building. Belgium is defined by many by its total inability to understand what customer service involves. Belgian Service + Ryanair + Ghastly Airport = Bad Start To Holiday!

In fact, Ryanair seems to specialise in operating from such airports. Forli in Italy is a classic example, albeit with much better service because the staff are Italian. I love the Adriatic coast, so its  an airport I know well. Not that Forli is particularly near the coast. Nor is Bologna (Forli), to give it its full name, even remotely near Bologna. Forli changed hands from the Luftwaffe to the Royal Canadian Air Force after the war, but the town itself is best known as the birthplace of Mussolini. But I digress....

Ryanair also seem to employ extremely young pilots, who I expect learned their trade on computer games. I was told that the first time a co-pilot takes to the air is an operational flight for him. Before then its all simulators.

Now the Belgian government has revealed its concerns about the low levels of fuel being carried on Ryanair flights in order to cut costs. Apparently there were 3 seperate incidents of fuel shortage over Spain in one day. Perhaps passengers could be asked to pay, let us say, an extra €50 each to fill the tanks up? This could possibly be done by means of a whip-round in the departure lounge. There could be a screen showing the amount of fuel being piped in compared to the distance to be flown, with announcements that go something like this:

"1,200 miles to fly, and enough fuel for 1,250 miles. Who would like to give us an extra few bob at this moment? Consider it an investment for your children. And by the way, buy a Ryanair lottery card, and if you are lucky you can win enough money to buy us some de-icer for the wings when we return from  Reykjavik next week. You know it makes sense!"

There is a certain irony in all this, as after Ryanair, SleazyJet, and WizzAir, my least favourite carrier is Brussels Airlines. Its shit (although I did once fly as the only passenger from Birminghan to Brussels, and I was looked after like royalty. One of the very pretty Stewardesses spoilt the experience a tad though, as we were taxiing at Brum, she told me that "the pilot apologises for it being a bit bumpy, but the tyres are a bit flat"). But I did have the distinction of being the first person to fly with the carrier after they were grounded for a week or whatever it was because of the volcanic ash scare.

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