Ryanair claims vindication on Spanish fuel emergencies
Ryanair said an Irish air safety probe released Thursday had vindicated the budget carrier in three low-fuel emergency landings in Spain.
The carrier’s safety record has been attacked in some Spanish media since three Ryanair planes on July 26 made emergency landings in Valencia because their fuel was running low.
“The three fuel emergencies on the 26th July were rare, very unusual but were safely and properly carried out on an evening when there was very bad weather in Madrid,” Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said.
“I hope these facts will finally put to rest the false reports that have appeared in the Spanish media recently about Ryanair’s 28-year safety record,” he told a news conference in Madrid.
The three aircraft, heading to Madrid from London-Stansted, Stockholm-Skavsta and Palma de Majorca, had to be rerouted to Valencia because of thunderstorms over the Spanish capital.
They sought emergency landings from air traffic control, giving them priority status in the queue, because of their fuel levels.
The Irish Aviation Authority said in its report that all three planes left for Madrid with fuel in excess of flight plan requirements because of the storm threat.
They diverted to Valencia with more than the minimum amount of fuel needed, and their crews issued emergency landing requests in accordance with European Union safety rules, it said.
O’Leary said the airline had fewer than 20 safety-related incidents, such as bird strikes, in Spain during 2011 and fewer than 10 in the first half of 2012.
He rejected as false reports in some Spanish media which cited Spanish authorities saying that it suffered 1,200 safety incidents in the first half of this year.
O’Leary welcomed a joint statement by the Spanish public works ministry and Irish transport department this week in which Dublin said Ryanair’s safety standards were “on a par with the safest airlines in Europe”.
Dublin and Madrid promised to investigate an incident on Sunday, in which Rynair complains Spain overreacted when a flight heading to Tenerife in the Canary Islands diverted to Madrid for maintenance to change a faulty instrument panel.
O’Leary said the Ryanair pilot was asked six times by air traffic control whether he was declaring an emergency, and despite his denials of any need for assistance the plane was met by firefighters and police.
The airline boss said the flight panel was changed in 10 minutes, but the plane was held up for two hours while the head of AESA, Isabel Maestre, personally entered the aircraft and demanded various documents.
“What the hell was the head of AESA doing in the airport in Madrid?” he said.
“It is probably the first time in her life she’s been at Madrid airport on a Sunday, delaying a Ryanair flight for another two hours.”